Yemen’s Saleh Worth $60 Billion Says UN Sanctions Panel



Feb. 24, 2015 – The corrupt practices of Yemen’s former autocratic leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, have netted the strongman up to $60 billion, a UN sanctions panel will report to the Security Council on Tuesday.

The panel’s report says Saleh amassed up to $2 billion a year from 1978 until he was forced to step down in 2012 and that the assets are hidden in at least twenty countries with the help of business associates and front companies.

“The origin of the funds used to generate Ali Abdullah Saleh’s wealth is believed to be partly from his corrupt practices as President of Yemen, particularly relating to gas and oil contracts where he reportedly asked for money in exchange for granting companies exclusive rights to prospect for gas and oil in Yemen,” the report says.

“It is also alleged that Ali Abdullah Saleh, his friends, his family and his associates stole money from the fuel subsidy program, which uses up to 10 per cent of Yemen’s gross domestic product, as well as other ventures involving abuse of power, extortion and embezzlement,” the report adds.

“The result of these illegal activities for private gain is estimated to have amounted to nearly $2 billion a year over the last three decades,” it states.

The report was prepared by a panel of experts appointed by the Council to monitor the asset freezes and travel bans placed on Saleh and other spoilers of Yemen’s political transition last February. The Council is expected to renew those sanctions on Tuesday for another year.

So far, Saleh has evaded the measures with the help “of at least five prominent Yemeni businessmen… assisting the Saleh family to remove funds from banks in Yemen and deposit them overseas.”

“The panel is also conducting investigations into a number of private and publicly listed companies inside and outside Yemen, where it is believed that former President Saleh may be the beneficial owner of investments,” the report says.

It adds that the panel “has received information from a confidential source that Ali Abdullah Saleh has a number of alternative identity passports that have been provided to him by another State” which would further enable him to hide assets under false identities.

The panel’s estimated wealth of Saleh at $60 billion would place him fifth in Forbe’s list of the world’s richest people. Yemen’s GDP for 2014 was estimated at $35 billion by the World Bank.

Saleh stepped down in 2012 in a deal that granted him immunity from prosecution and allowed him stay in the country. The transitional government that succeeded him, headed by Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, was toppled last month with Saleh accused by some of using his wealth and connections to play a part in this.

The 54-page report from the panel also says that Houthi rebels, who are now in control in Sanaa, are using child soldiers and that hospitals and schools have been used by warring factions.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranked 154th out of 187 in the UN’s Human Development Index and ranked worst in the world for gender equality. More than half the population are living below the poverty line, according to World Bank figures.

Yemen lost its vote in the UN General Assembly last month because of the country’s inability to pay its dues.

Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Image: Wikimedia

UN Panel Of Experts Report on Security Council Sanctions Yemen

South Korea Take Reins Of Security Council For February As North Korea Threatens Action


Feb. 1, 2013 – South Korea assumes presidency of the Security Council for February as the threat of another nuclear test by North Korea looms.

A confluence of events make February a ripe month for Pyongyang to consider conducting its third nuclear test. That Seoul is presiding over the body that has already passed two rounds of international sanctions against it is reason enough but there are two other events this month that North Korea may well mark with an expression of its defiance of the international community.

Late leader Kim Jong Il’s birthday falls on Feb 16 and the inauguration of South Korea’s president-elect Park Geun-hye takes place Feb 25. In a Jan 25 letter to the Security Council, North Korea gave note of its intention to “bolster the military capabilities for self-defence, including the nuclear deterrence, both qualitatively and quantitatively, to cope with the ever more undisguised moves of the United States.” 

Pyongyang has in the past shown a preference to act on holidays. It conducted its first nuclear test on Oct 9, 2006, timed to mar Columbus Day celebrations in the U.S., a second nuclear test on Memorial Day 2009, and a missile test – contravening Council resolution 1874 – on July 4, 2009.

The Council expanded sanctions against North Korea last month over its failed Dec 2012 missile launch. Pyongyang condemned the move and in the Jan 25 letter stated that, “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will continuously launch satellites for peaceful purposes to conquer space and become a world-level power.” 

- Denis Fitzgerald

Taliban On The Take For More Than $1 Million Every Day

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Sept. 11, 2012 – The Taliban are raking in more than $1 million every day through extortion, the drugs trade, and skimming from international aid projects.

A report from the U.N. Security Council’s Sanctions Monitoring Team estimates that the group had income of about $400 million from March 21, 2011 to March 20, 2012 (the Afghan calendar year).

About one-third of that money is used to finance attacks, which are increasing in intensity and frequency.

There were 3,021 civilians killed in Afghanistan last year (double the number recorded in 2007) and more than 75 percent of the deaths were attributed to anti-government forces, namely the Taliban and its associated networks.

The report says the Taliban raised about $100 million from the drugs trade by taxing poppy farmers, providing protection for drug convoys, and from taxing heroin laboratories. 

Shopkeepers and other small businesses are taxed between 2.5 – 10 percent by the Taliban, despite the group providing no government services.

One of the most fruitful sources of income for the Taliban is the international aid sector.

In one instance recorded in the report, the Taliban took $360 million from a $2.16 billion contract awarded to an Afghan trucking company by the United States military over a period of three years.

“Organizations involved in providing development assistance regard these overheads as a cost of doing business,” the report says. 

Fifteen individuals associated with Taliban finances are on the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions list and subject to an assets freeze and travel ban.

“However, the sanctions themselves do not appear yet to have disrupted the financial arrangements of the Taliban,” the report states.

Average weekly income in Afghanistan is about $18 and only seven percent of Afghans have a bank account, according to U.N. and World Bank figures.

Full UNSC Sanctions Monitoring Team report here.

- Denis Fitzgerald