By Mustapha Darboe
An unnamed US embassy official in Banjul has told Reuters news agency that Washington is collaborating with the Gambia government on recovering assets that former president Yahya Jammeh has in the country.
Gambian authorities have frozen assets of Jammeh a couple of months ago and yesterday Barrow launched a commission of inquiry into his assets, associates and companies.
Cherno Marenah, the solicitor general, said investigators are also looking into assets in Morocco and the United States, where one US official told Reuters Jammeh owned a property in Potomac, Maryland, a wealthy suburb of Washington, DC.
The World Bank would help The Gambia through its Stolen Assets Recovery Programme, Marenah said, though the bank declined to comment.
Reuters has followed Gambian authorities in a visit to Kanilai in what was a search for tens of millions of dollars of looted assets, an investigation that Jammeh’s supporters have dismissed as a witch-hunt.
“We suspect most of the things were taken away before he left – the treasure, possibly weapons and most of the vehicles,” said the bailiff from Gambia’s high court, Modou Moussa Ceesay, taking an inventory of Jammeh’s possessions.
Kanilai was Jammeh’s birthplace and is now his most elaborate estate – complete with farms, mosque, tanks, multiple residences, jungle warfare training camp and vast private safari park housing exotic parrots, zebras, hyenas and camels.
Building materials lie next to an unfinished new palace, near a billboard of a smiling Jammeh embracing his family.
The justice ministry team inspected it all under the gaze of a group of Jammeh’s relatives and supporters, all wearing the green T-shirts of his APRC party. One of them stuck up his middle finger at the visiting delegation.
“Most of the paper trails are available,” Gambia’s Solicitor General Cherno Marenah said.
But following those paper trails is proving time consuming. Investigators only made their first visit to the heavily fortified estate this month.