NEWS

The Money's Still In The Bank, Says Gambia, After Rumours That Dictator Jammeh Took It With Him

Gambia's central bank accounts "intact," says new president's spokesman.

24/01/2017 13:41 SAST | Updated 24/01/2017 13:58 SAST
REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
Members of the regional ECOWAS force keep guard at Presidence palace in Banjul, Gambia, on January 23, 2017.

Gambia's central bank deposits are "intact," a spokesman for President Adama Barrow said on Monday, a day after the new leader had said there was no money left in the state coffers.

Barrow said on Sunday that it appeared his exiled predecessor, Yahya Jammeh, had looted state resources after his election defeat. A Barrow adviser later said Jammeh had withdrawn the equivalent of over $11.5 million before he flew out of the country as West African troops were poised to remove him.

That amount would represent 1.2 percent of Gambia's 2015 GDP, according to World Bank figures.

"There had been information to the public about the central bank. It was of particular concern but the inspector general (of) police told me that everything is intact," Halifa Sallah said at a news conference in Gambia's capital Banjul.

It was not immediately clear if Barrow and his adviser, Mai Ahmad Fatty, had been referring to central bank funds or other state resources. Fatty could not be reached for clarification.

Jammeh is believed to have acquired a vast fortune, including a fleet of Rolls-Royces and an estate in a wealthy suburb of Washington, D.C during his rule.

The veteran leader, who had refused to hand over power after his defeat in December's election, flew out of Gambia late on Saturday en route to Equatorial Guinea after negotiations backed by regional military pressure.

But even before the cheers to celebrate Jammeh's departure had died down, there was dismay that the former soldier was being allowed to flee into luxurious exile and might hold onto his fortune.

Rights groups also accuse Jammeh, who took power in a 1994 coup, of jailing, torturing and killing political opponents — charges Jammeh has denied. Barrow denied on Sunday that Jammeh had been offered immunity.

Sallah on Monday also announced that Barrow had named Fatoumata Tambajang, the country's former health minister, as vice president. Tambajang was the architect of the opposition coalition that backed Barrow in the election.

He added that the director general of the country's National Intelligence Agency had assured him that all prisoners held by the agency had been released but that the new administration would be looking into additional claims of missing persons.

($1 = 43.1800 Gambian dalasis) (Writing by Joe Bavier and Aaron Ross; editing by Richard Lough)