Former Gambia president Yahya Jammeh personally stole at least $362 million (278 million pounds) from the state during his 22-year rule, the justice minister said following a nearly two-year investigation.
Jammeh, who seized power in a 1994 coup, fled Gambia in 2017 for exile in Equatorial Guinea as a West African regional force closed in on Banjul to enforce his election loss to President Adama Barrow.
Speaking to reporters, Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou provided a summary of a report submitted on Friday by a commission of inquiry. The report was based on interviews with 253 witnesses.
“This is a staggering amount of money that could have had significant impact on the lives of ordinary people in this country,” Tambadou said.
“Instead, it was used to satisfy the pretentious and delusional lifestyle of an egotistic megalomaniac, acts both unconscionable and criminal.”
Jammeh has not commented on the accusations from his base in Equatorial Guinea, but supporters in Gambia dismissed investigations as a witch hunt.
The new authorities believe he took many of his valuable cars and treasures with him, after a period of rule characterised by extra-judicial killings, torture and forced disappearances as well as pilfering of state assets.
Tambadou said government was working to recover the money. Government previously said funds were stolen by creating fake accounts at the central bank and skimming money from the national telecommunications agency and other state institutions.
To date the Barrow government has sold off some possessions Jammeh left behind, including aircraft and Rolls-Royces with his name embroidered on the head rests.
A report by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a non-profit investigative reporting outlet, said Jammeh and his associates “looted or misappropriated” at least $975 million, according to bank statements, government documents and correspondence.
Gambia currently faces a debt burden that reached 130% of gross domestic product (GDP) last year, leading the International Monetary Fund to warn against new borrowing.