FILE PHOTO: Gambian President Yahya Jammeh addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Burton/Pool/File Photo(reuters_tickers)
By Edward McAllister
DAKAR (Reuters) - Gambia's government will launch an investigation into the finances of former long-standing president Yahya Jammeh including the personal use of a charity bank account revealed by Reuters last month, the justice minister said on Friday.
The government of President Adama Barrow, who beat Jammeh in a December election before Jammeh fled into exile, has accused the authoritarian former ruler of siphoning off tens of millions of dollars in public money into various bank accounts not in his name but from which he withdrew cash, including at the central bank.
Reuters found that in 2012 and 2013 over $8 million from a bank account in the name of the Jammeh Foundation for Peace, a charity founded by Jammeh, flowed to Jammeh himself, not to foundation projects. Over half the money was withdrawn in cash.
Reuters was unable to determine whether donors intended to support the Jammeh Foundation for Peace, or if donors, charity officials and the bank were aware that Jammeh was using the account to build his personal wealth. Reuters could not determine how the withdrawn money was spent.
"We are setting up a commission of inquiry looking into Jammeh's financial and business related activity," Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou told Reuters. "Absolutely we will look into the Jammeh Foundation as part of this inquiry."
The inquiry will begin in the next few months and will be carried out in conjunction with the finance ministry, Tambadou said.
Tambadou said that the donations into the foundation account, which according to bank statements included payments from Euro African Group and Selectra AG, will be investigated.
"We are going to look at every source of funding that Jammeh had and every withdrawal that Jammeh made. We will look at these donors and the circumstances under which these payments were made to the foundation," he said.
The financial probe is part of a wider call for justice following Jammeh's 22-year rule, which ended in chaos in January when international forces descended on the capital Banjul, leading Jammeh to step down and seek exile in Equatorial Guinea.
He has been accused of widespread human rights abuses, including detention, torture and "disappearance" of opposition politicians, journalists and military personnel, rights groups say.
(Editing by Andrew Roche)