Bashir charged


A Sudanese judge formally indicted Omar al-Bashir for possessing illicit foreign currency and corruption, charges the ousted leader challenged when publicly questioned for the first time since his overthrow.

Bashir said he received $25 million from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as funds from other sources, but he had not received or used money for his own benefit.

A lawyer for Bashir said his client denied the charges and witnesses for the defence would be presented at the next hearing.

The judge denied a request for bail and said a decision on the duration of Bashir’s detention would be taken at a hearing on September 7. Foreign currency held by Bashir was illicit and was transferred illegally, he said.

Millions of euros and Sudanese pounds were found at Bashir’s residence when he was toppled and arrested in April, a judicial source said at the time.

Sudan’s military ousted Bashir after months of protests. His prosecution is seen as a test of how far military and civilian authorities now sharing power will go to counter the legacy of his 30-year rule.

Bashir, in traditional white robes in a metal courtroom cage and spoke slowly into a microphone, said his former office manager received a message from Mohammed bin Salman’s office that a sum of money in euros worth $25 million would be sent by private plane for extra-budgetary needs.

“It was not possible to present the money to the ministry of finance or central bank because that would have required clarifying the source of the funds and the Saudi prince asked that his name should not appear,” said Bashir.

“I used the money for donations to various parties,” including medical services, a university, an Islamic media channel and urgent provision of petroleum products, he said.

Bashir gave no date for the transfer. Saudi authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bashir said he also received more than five million Sudanese pounds ($111,110) from the head of a cereal company providing much of Sudan’s flour, to be exchanged for foreign currency for flour imports.

The charges against Bashir carry maximum prison sentences of around 10 years.

Bashir was charged with incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters in May. The International Criminal Court in The Hague issued arrest warrants against him in 2009 and 2010 on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region.

A police detective told the court earlier Bashir acknowledged receiving money from Saudi Arabia.