Today, The Sentry, an investigative initiative co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, presented a new, groundbreaking report War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay: Stopping the looting and destruction in South Sudan."
Clooney and Prendergast joined Don Cheadle and lead investigators at the National Press Club in Washington DC to present findings of a two-year investigation into South Sudan’s shadowy war economy and its links to a network of international facilitators, including bankers, arms dealers, and multinational oil and mining companies. The report implicates South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar, who as rival leaders have been responsible for a civil war that has wreaked havoc on their nation.
This marked the first public presentation of The Sentry’s multi-country investigations into the links between massive corruption, war profiteering, and armed conflict. The Sentry is a collaboration between The ENOUGH Project and Not On Our Watch, with their implementing partner the Center for Advanced Defense Studies. The Sentry also focuses on Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic.
The report exposes top officials who have managed to accumulate fortunes profiting from massive corruption, fueling and exploiting a brutal civil war while their nation suffers famine-like conditions and the horrors of armed conflict, including mass rape, the burning of villages, and the use of child soldiers.
The Sentry’s work unveils a new and innovative approach to countering mass atrocities and to promote peace in some of the world’s deadliest conflict zones, utilizing the tools of financial pressure normally reserved for countering terrorism, organized crime, and nuclear proliferation.
• South Sudan’s president and the former vice president, their families and inner circles have stashed fortunes that include overseas mansions, luxury cars, and stakes in an array of businesses – major multinational oil and mining companies, banks, casinos, and an airline — and have left a trail of murky transactions, insider deals, and outright fraud.
• The report details international complicity at every turn — bankers, businessmen, arms dealers, real estate agents, and lawyers who facilitate their heist.
• The Sentry found evidence of complicity in the looting and destruction of South Sudan on five different continents: Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia, and North America.
• The Sentry has collected images of family members of these top officials jet-setting and partying in 5-star hotels, and documentation of their offshore mansions and properties.
• Researchers pored through thousands of pages of legal records, corporate filings, financial statements, transaction and shipping documents, and other official correspondence; tracked suspects’ online social media footprints; and utilized satellite imagery to gather and analyze data about their assets and movements. Investigators traveled to multiple locations including Melbourne, Adelaide, Addis Ababa, Kampala, Juba, Cairo and Nairobi, to gather evidence and interview hundreds of experts and eyewitnesses, many of whom spoke under the condition of anonymity.
• Dossiers are already being turned over to US and international governments and agencies for enforcement action.
• The report offers recommendations for an innovative new policy approach for preventing atrocities and promoting peace: combining anti-money laundering measures with targeted sanctions focused on the top leaders, accompanied by robust enforcement.
• A VIOLENT CONTEST OVER SPOILS OF POWER: “The key catalyst of South Sudan’s civil war has been competition for the grand prize — control over state assets and the country’s abundant natural resources — between rival kleptocratic networks led by President Kiir and Vice President Machar. The leaders of South Sudan’s warring parties manipulate and exploit ethnic divisions in order to drum up support for a conflict that serves the interests only of the top leaders of these two kleptocratic networks and, ultimately, the international facilitators whose services the networks utilize and on which they rely.”
• HUMAN SUFFERING: "South Sudan, the world’s newest state, continues to be embroiled in a horrific civil war. Tens of thousands of people have lost their lives, many of them civilians. Mass rape has been used as a weapon of war. Children are routinely recruited as soldiers and sent as cannon fodder into combat. As of July 2016, some 2.3 million people have been displaced by the conflict. A staggering 5.1 million people —almost half the country’s population— require food assistance. Entire towns have been destroyed. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called South Sudan “one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world.”
This report proposes a new strategy to counter atrocities that will use the tools of financial pressure normally reserved for countering terrorism, organized crime, and nuclear proliferation for two purposes: first, to bring to account those government actors in South Sudan who until now have been able to operate with near impunity because the world imposes no consequences for their behavior; and second, to create significant and until now missing international leverage by altering the cost-benefit analysis of those leaders and shifting their incentives away from violence, atrocities, and corruption and toward peace, human rights, and transparency. The international community should take the following steps to create that accountability and leverage:
1. Take proactive steps to curb the laundering of the proceeds of corruption in South Sudan —and crack down on any banks that fail to stop such transactions.
2. Impose smarter sanctions on a wide array of high-impact targets and ensure these sanctions are robustly enforced.
3. Encourage and support South Sudan’s neighbors to lead in combating the laundering of assets looted from South Sudan and imposing asset freezes on those most responsible for human rights violations and financial misconduct.
4. Take proactive attempts to prevent de-risking. Directing anti-money laundering pressures against politically exposed persons in South Sudan could cause banks to determine that the risk of doing business with South Sudanese account holders is simply too high when compared with the incentives for maintaining business in the country. The Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) should issue guidance to the banking community stressing that not every South Sudanese client is high-risk.
5. Introduce a financial management system that prevents violent kleptocrats from capturing state institutions to facilitate the looting of public resources.
The Sentry brings together an experienced team of investigators, including former employees of the FBI, Treasury Department, other government agencies, intelligence communities, and Congress, as well as contributions from field researchers, country experts, academia and press.