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Sudan suffers from one of the highest rates of corruption in the world, ranking 172nd out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index. *As detailed in previous reports by the Enough Project and The Sentry,*governing institutions have been coopted by a corrupt network engaged in personal enrichment and a repressive security apparatus aimed at protecting the interests of the country’s elite. President Omar al-Bashir’s kleptocracy has undermined previously democratic institutions and processes and compromised government checks and balances, resulting in an autocratic system marked by systemic human rights violations. A fragmented political opposition, elements of which have been bought off by the regime over the years, has further enabled the status quo.*Senior members of the government are engaged in extensive corruption, thus undermining the government pledge to combat graft.
At the same time, the strong anti-corruption sentiments of the population have helped mobilize ongoing peaceful protests demanding an end to repression, a lasting and just peace, and a transition to democratic rule in Sudan. Throughout the protests, which are into their 14th week despite security forces’ violent attempts to stifle them, a popular slogan has captured the protesters’ spirit: “we have risen,” the crowds have chanted, “against those who stole our sweat.”
At their root, the crimes of Sudan’s kleptocracy are financial. These financial crimes and the public corruption that sustains them are one of the major features of a kleptocracy. A kleptocratic system, where those in power use their influence to exploit the people and resources of their country for personal profit, could not exist without the money laundering schemes corrupt leaders employ to conceal the origins of their ill-gotten gains. Kleptocrats use the same obfuscation techniques to move, launder, and hide their money as criminals and terrorists, and a country with weak anti-money laundering controls leaves open the possibilities for rampant abuse.
Sudan’s systemic corruption and well-established kleptocracy are the reasons the Bashir government has not implemented an effective anti-money laundering regime. Widespread financial crime and pervasive corruption are also often correlated with a variety of other negative indicators, including deep economic inequality, acute poverty, entrenched lack of citizen confidence in government institutions, and a perpetual lack of investment and development. These factors, all of which are prevalent in Sudan, become mutually reinforcing and undermine attempts to address any of them. An analysis by The Sentry has found that while the country has made some progress, the Sudanese government’s efforts to counter money laundering and terrorist financing are woefully insufficient, allowing criminal activities and networks to thrive and making it extremely unlikely that Sudanese authorities have the ability to successfully detect and deter terrorist financing in the country’s financial system.
With such widespread corruption, any real success in combatting illicit financial activities such as fraud, bribery, and misappropriation of public funds will be difficult. At the urging of regional partners and the United States, the government of Sudan has begun developing an anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime. A comparison of the laws in place in Sudan and the recommendations set forth by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) shows that while Sudan has taken many positive steps, the government has not sufficiently implemented its own laws.
In 2010, Sudan was listed by the FATF as a jurisdiction with strategic deficiencies in its AML/CFT measures. A team of assessors from the FATF-style regional body (FSRB) for the Middle East and North Africa, MENAFATF, of which Sudan is a member, visited Sudan in December 2011 to conduct an evaluation of the country’s AML/CFT regime. The evaluation report revealed numerous shortfalls in the implementation of FATF recommendations but also highlighted some progress. The weaknesses included a lack of adequate procedures for identifying and freezing terrorist assets, which was especially consequential given Sudan’s status as a U.S. Department of State-designated State Sponsor of Terrorism, as well as the lack of a fully operational or effective financial intelligence unit (FIU). In 2015, Sudan was removed from the FATF list, having satisfied the concerns the task force identified. Since 2015, however, Sudan has done little to make any further progress on anti-money laundering, and some glaring deficiencies remain. It appears that the FIU, for example, has accomplished little since 2015. Additionally, the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), the organization responsible for egregious human rights violations and involved in sanctions evasion and illicit finance activities, continues to have undue influence in the country’s economy. The next planned review, to be conducted by the regional FATF affiliate, will take place in 2022. Without a concerted campaign by the government of Sudan to combat money laundering and corruption, the next review will likely reveal a lack of political will to implement existing laws and little improvement in the government’s ability to tackle financial crime.
The Sentry recommends that the U.S. government urgently take steps to increase pressure on the Sudan regime, including imposing network sanctions against those groups responsible for corruption and human rights abuse. The Sentry also recommends that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issue an advisory to financial institutions on the risk of doing business in Sudan.*The Sentry further recommends that international banks conducting business with Sudanese entities apply enhanced due diligence to these relationships. Finally, The Sentry calls on the government of Sudan cease all support for terrorist financing, implement a comprehensive anti-corruption campaign, strengthen the FIU and law enforcement bodies, and work to improve banking supervision.