By Omar Bah
Former president Yahya Jammeh has officially lost his Potomac mansion to the US government.
A district court in Maryland has given a final judgment to forfeit the property to the US Department of Justice.
According to US authorities, Jammeh used bribery proceeds and stolen government funds to buy the mansion in a suburb of Washington.
The US Justice Department said in a civil forfeiture complaint last year that Jammeh conspired to launder roughly $3.5 million in “corruption proceeds” through the purchase of a lavish home in Potomac, Maryland.
Jammeh acquired at least 281 properties during his time in office and operated more than 100 private bank accounts directly or through companies or foundations in which he has shares or an interest, according to the Justice Department’s civil complaint.
On August 25, 2020, the United States filed the Amended Complaint (ECF No. 6) seeking forfeiture to the United States, of the real property located in Potomac, Maryland.
The property was put in Zineb’s name, with a Successor Trustee listed as Yahya Jammeh (together, the “Jammehs”).
According to the judgment, the United States attempted to serve notice of the Amended Complaint on the Jammehs, as the Trustees of the MYJ Family Trust, in Equatorial Guinea through “internationally agreed means of service reasonably calculated to give notice.”
Specifically, on or about February 4, 2021, the U.S. Department of State transmitted a Request for Assistance to the Central Authority of Equatorial Guinea from the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Office of International Affairs, pursuant to Article 18 of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, to which both the United States and the Republic of Equatorial Guinea are parties, seeking assistance in determining the current location of the Jammehs and serving the Jammehs with notice of the commencement of the civil forfeiture action against the Defendant Property.
As detailed in the Declaration of the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Susan N. Stevenson, despite good faith efforts, the United States was unable to confirm that the Amended Complaint was served on the Jammehs in Equatorial Guinea.
Specifically, Ambassador Stevenson delivered the Request for Assistance to multiple government officials in Equatorial Guinea and delivered the original documents to be served on the Jammehs to the Minister of Justice in Equatorial Guinea on May 4, 2021.
Although the President of Equatorial Guinea told Ambassador Stevenson on July 13, 2021, that documents were sent to the Jammehs’ residence (implying that the Jammehs remain in Equatorial Guinea), the Minister of Justice subsequently advised Ambassador Stevenson that his ministry had been unable to locate the Jammehs and advised “that the case should proceed with the understanding that the Governments of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and the United States had made good faith efforts to advise the Jammehs of the complaint.”
No extensions to these deadlines have been requested, consented to, or granted by this Court.
According to judgment no person or entity has filed either a claim to the Defendant Property, or has otherwise appeared to contest the forfeiture of the Defendant Property, and the time to do so has expired.
“Forfeiture Actions, and a default having been entered by the Clerk of Court, the United States is entitled to the entry of a default judgment pursuant to Rule 55(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Moreover, to ensure that the United States has clear title to the Defendant Property and has the authority to dispose of the Defendant Property in accordance with law, the government now seeks the entry of a Final Order of Forfeiture,” the ruling reads.