US sanctions Zineb Jammeh

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Zineb Jammeh, wife of former Gambia president, Yahya Jammeh, was hit with US sanctions for her role in the economic plunder of the tiny West African country during her husband’s 22-year rule, the US Treasury said.

Yahya Jammeh stole at least $50 million of state funds during a despotic tenure that ended in 2017 when he was forced into exile after losing an election, the Gambian Justice Ministry said.

Most of his remaining assets are controlled by Zineb, the US Treasury said.

Yahya Jammeh was not reachable in Equatorial Guinea on Tuesday, but his lawyers denied wrongdoing in the past. Zineb could not be reached for comment.

“Zineb was reportedly instrumental in aiding and abetting Jammeh’s economic crimes against the country and despite numerous calls for Zineb to intervene, turned a blind eye to Jammeh’s human rights abuses,” the statement said.

The money, often delivered to Jammeh through massive cash withdrawals from bank accounts not in his name, afforded the Jammehs a lavish lifestyle including the purchase of a $3.5 million mansion in the eastern US state Maryland, acquired through a trust set up by Zineb.

Zineb is in charge of most of Jammeh’s assets around the world, the US Treasury said. She ran a charity Reuters revealed was used to send millions of dollars to Jammeh instead of to charitable projects.

Yahya Jammeh, who took power in 1994 after a peaceful coup, ran the tropical tourist destination with a mix of generosity and fear. He claimed to have a herbal cure for AIDS, risking the lives of countless people sent to him for treatment. Under his rule, opponents were jailed, tortured or killed, rights groups say. Jammeh denies the charges.

The US also sanctioned on Nabah Ltd, a UK-registered company run by Ashraf Seed Ahmed Al-Cardinal which Treasury says holds funds for senior level South Sudanese officials to avoid sanctions.