Ousted Sudan president Omar Hassan al-Bashir acknowledged receiving millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia, a police detective told a court at the start of a corruption trial many Sudanese thought they would never see.
Bashir listened to testimony without comment, sitting in a metal cage and wearing traditional white robes and a turban in his first appearance in a Khartoum courtroom.
He is charged with illicit possession of foreign currency and accepting gifts in an unofficial manner. Bashir’s lawyer dismissed the accusations, telling reporters it was usual for leaders to hold foreign currency.
The veteran leader spoke to confirm his name and age. When asked about his residence, Bashir laughed and said: “formerly the airport district, at army headquarters but now Kobar prison,” referring to the detention complex where he sent opponents during his rule.
The Saudi government communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the testimony.
Bashir weathered multiple rebellions, economic crises, US sanctions and coup attempts before he was overthrown by the military in April after mass protests against his 30-year rule.
His trial will be seen as a test of how serious authorities are about erasing the legacy of a rule marked by widespread violence, wars, economic collapse and the secession of South Sudan.
The 75-year-old, who seized power in a coup in 1989, arrived at the courthouse in a convoy with military and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces soldiers.
Family members shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is the Greatest) and he raised his hand in greeting from the courtroom cage.
A small number of family members were allowed in the cage after the session ended. The next hearing is scheduled for Saturday.
Police Brigadier General Ahmed Ali Mohamed, a detective in the team investigating Bashir, testified Bashir told them he received $25 million from Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, known as MbS.
The detective cited Bashir as saying MbS gave him the money for spending outside the Sudanese state budget and it was spent on donations, without going into further detail.
Sums of $351,000, more than six million Euros and five million Sudanese pounds were found at Bashir’s home when he was arrested, a judicial source said at the time.
Mohamed said Bashir told investigators he received $65 million dollars, in two separate payments, from former Saudi King Abdullah.
Bashir’s lawyer Ahmed Ibrahim told reporters: “There is no information or evidence with regards to the accusations of illicit gains aimed at Bashir.
“Anyone in his occupation has to have foreign currency and it was in a room attached to his office in his presidential residence,” he added.
Bashir was charged in May with incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters and prosecutors want him questioned over suspected money laundering and terrorism financing.
Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of masterminding genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region.