Sudan’s al-Bashir admits receiving $25m from Saudi crown prince

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Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s former president, has told a court that he received $25m from Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince.

The 75-year-old, who was toppled in April in the wake of mass protests against his three-decade rule, made the statement on Saturday after a judge formally charged him with illicit possession of foreign currency and corruption. 

The offences could put al-Bashir behind bars for more than a decade. 

Questioned in court for the first time, al-Bashir said he used the money for donations and not for his own benefit. 

Sitting in a metal cage in the court in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, al-Bashir said: “My office manager … received a call from the office of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman saying he has a ‘message’ that will be sent on a private jet.    

“We were told that the crown prince did not want his name to appear [linked to the transaction] … and if the funds were deposited with Sudan’s bank or the finance ministry, the source would have to be identified,” he said.

‘As you see fit’

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said al-Bashir told the court he gave five million dollars to the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group that helped remove him from power, four million dollars to a university in Sudan and two million dollars to a military hospital.

But he told the court he had no record of how the money was spent. 

“He said he did not want to turn down the money because he did not want to  upset a country that had special relations with Sudan. But he also said that he wasn’t sure of why it was given in the first place,” said Morgan. 

Prince Mohammed told al-Bashir to “use the money as you see fit”, she added. 

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An investigator had previously told the court that al-Bashir received $90m in cash from Saudi royals.

The Saudi government communications office did not immediately comment on the testimony.

A lawyer for al-Bashir said that his client denied the charges against him and that witnesses for the defence would be presented at the next hearing. Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir, the former president’s legal counsel, previously told reporters it was normal for heads of state to hold foreign currency. 

The court rejected a request from al-Bashir’s defence attorneys for his release on bail.

The trial was adjourned until September 7. 

Authorities found millions in foreign and domestic currency stockpiled at al-Bashir’s home after his arrest. 

His trial comes as Sudan embarks on a transition to civilian rule following a power-sharing deal signed on August 17 by protest leaders and the generals who replaced him.

Al-Bashir was also charged in May with incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters.

Separately, the former Sudanese leader is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and genocide linked to the Darfur conflict in the 2000s.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/sudan-al-bashir-admits-receiving-25m-saudi-crown-prince-190831110115474.html

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