Investigative Report by The Sentry:
Report Details Suspicions of Terror Links, Reveals Ali Khalil Merhi’s Predatory Business Operations, Dealings with President’s Daughter and Recently-Sanctioned General
April 20, 2021 (Washington, DC) – A new investigative report released today by The Sentry details how Ali Khalil Merhi, a one-time fugitive from Paraguay who fled criminal charges and suspicions of terror financing, has reemerged in South Sudan with an altered identity, the title of honorary consul, and a thriving business empire benefiting from corrupt connections and predatory operations.
The Sentry’s report, “The Metamorphosis of Ali Khalil Merhi: How a One-Time Fugitive Found Fortune in South Sudan,” details Merhi’s journey from Paraguay’s most notorious prison to the world’s youngest nation, where he established a new profile with connections to the president of South Sudan and his inner circle. His business activities in South Sudan include a mining deal with the president’s daughter and a series of suspicious payments to General Malek Reuben Riak, a top official now under US, EU, and UN sanctions for corruption, torture, human rights abuses, and widespread violence and destruction.
The Sentry, an investigative and policy team co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, has been actively tracking and exposing corruption, state capture, and international profiteering linked to war, mass atrocities, and human rights abuse in South Sudan.
George Clooney, Co-Founder of The Sentry, said: “In 2000, Ali Khalil Merhi fled charges of counterfeiting, accusations of links to terror financing, and requests from Argentine prosecutors to question him about a deadly 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires. Two decades later, Merhi has reemerged—with a new spelling of his name and a new business empire. The Sentry found that the government of South Sudan has been harboring Merhi for more than a decade, granting him citizenship, lucrative contracts, and even the title of honorary consul. Along the way, Merhi has formed a company with President Salva Kiir’s daughter and made large deposits into the bank account of a general now under UN, US, and EU sanctions for corruption and links to human rights abuses. The Sentry is working with banks and governments around the world to use sanctions, asset freezes, and anti-money laundering measures against his predatory business operators and their networks.”
The Sentry can demonstrate—through an extensive body of corporate filings, legal records, photographs, public reports, and social media posts—that Ali Khalil Merhi and Ali Khalil Myree are the same person. According to The Sentry’s report, neither his past as a fugitive nor his suspected links to potential terrorist financing have prevented him from international business activities and personal travels. In South Sudan, he has enjoyed access to bank accounts, travel documents, and multimillion-dollar contracts, all while maintaining close relationships with influential politicians and high-ranking military officials.
John Prendergast, Co-Founder of The Sentry, said: “In South Sudan, the leaders of the country who have hijacked state institutions and undermined the rule of law for their own financial gain have enabled Ali Khalil Merhi to evade the consequences of his alleged misconduct for years. But governments, law enforcement agencies, and banks have the tools to change that. By acting swiftly, they can build meaningful accountability for individuals like Merhi and send a message that South Sudan should not be a safe haven for international criminals and other corrupt operators.”
Sophie Lombardo, Investigator at The Sentry, said: “In South Sudan, kleptocracy has eroded the system of governance and provided fertile ground for foreign exploitation. Wherever corruption is rampant and rule of law weak, predatory networks thrive. The case of Ali Khalil Merhi makes it clear that disrupting these networks is not only a humanitarian concern, but a global security imperative.”
J.R. Mailey, Director of Investigations at The Sentry, said: “While Ali Merhi’s journey from a prison cell in Paraguay to the corridors of power in Juba is nothing short of remarkable, his ascendance in South Sudan shouldn’t come as a surprise. This is the reality of business and politics in a state captured by a lethal criminal network. Merhi benefits from the same fundamental feature of South Sudanese politics as those at the helm of the country’s government – a prevailing environment of impunity. Without accountability and consequences for violence or predatory conduct, criminals will continue to dominate both politics and business in the world’s newest nation.”
Highlights from the Sentry report:
Report recommendations: In response to its findings, The Sentry provides a series of urgent policy recommendations, fully detailed at the end of the report and highlighted below.
Read the full report: https://thesentry.org/
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About The Sentry
The Sentry is an investigative and policy team that follows the dirty money connected to African war criminals and transnational war profiteers and seeks to shut those benefiting from violence out of the international financial system. By disrupting the cost-benefit calculations of those who hijack governments for self-enrichment, we seek to counter the main drivers of conflict and create new leverage for peace, human rights, and good governance. The Sentry is composed of financial investigators, international human rights lawyers, and regional experts, as well as former law enforcement agents, intelligence officers, policymakers, investigative journalists, and banking professionals. Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, The Sentry is a strategic partner of the Clooney Foundation for Justice.