- Associated Press - Friday, March 29, 2019

BANJUL, Gambia (AP) - An inquiry panel handed over a report Friday to Gambia’s president on the financial dealings of ex-leader Yahya Jammeh who was recently accused of stealing nearly $1 billion from the small West African nation.

The money was used to finance Jammeh’s lavish lifestyle and is believed to still support him in his exile in Equatorial Guinea, the investigative group said. He hasn’t responded to the ongoing investigations against him.

The commission looked at Jammeh’s more than two-decade long rule from 1994 to 2017. President Adama Barrow has expressed his commitment to implementing the recommendations of the report and his resolve to right the wrongs of the past. He had accused the former leader of pilfering at least $90 million from state coffers during his rule.

The findings of the panel, which is known as the Janneh commission after commission chair Surahata Janneh, remain confidential for now.

“The commission’s report exposes former President Jammeh’s financial activities ranging from complex webs of intricate and sophisticated international financial transactions that bear all the hallmarks of criminality and money laundering in particular aided by his close associates, to shameless acts of brazen outright thievery at the Central Bank of The Gambia,” Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou said at the State House in the capital, Banjul.

The Inquiry Panel sifted through transcripts of 253 witness testimonies and other documentary evidence, analyzed and made sense of the information collected, and has produced a report in nine volumes, he said.

Tambadou said that while the commission couldn’t look into all the financial activities of the country’s ex-leader, the investigation revealed huge amounts of money embezzled by Jammeh and his close associates.

He deplored the amount of money that was stolen saying it “could have been used to impact significantly on the lives of the ordinary people of this country, in health, in education, in agriculture and many other priority areas … Instead, it was money used to satisfy the pretentious and delusional lifestyle of an egotistic megalomaniac; acts that were both unconscionable and criminal.”

Tambadou also disclosed that Jammeh claimed title to 281 land properties in the country.

“We have shared information generated in the course of the commission’s work with foreign governments that are assisting us with the tracking and recovery of assets abroad and which led to the freezing of the Potomac residence by U.S. authorities,” he indicated.

The release of the report Friday to Gambia’s president comes days after an investigative group, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, released a report saying that Jammeh had looted Gambia of $1 billion through fear and privilege.

Jammeh looted the money from state coffers, including the central bank, social welfare office and state telecom company, during his more than two decades in power, getting away with it by elevating civil servants to prominent positions and empowering a group of businessmen led by a key Hezbollah financier, the corruption reporting group said.

Meanwhile, Gambia remains very poor with a debt of $489 million at the end of 2017, according to the World Bank.

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