The President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir stashed away as much as $9-billion of his nation's in foreign bank accounts, according to US diplomatic cables leaked to WikiLeaks.
The money was largely generated by Sudan's booming oil sector, although the country itself remains extremely poor.
Luis Moreno Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), was quoted by diplomats as claiming that much of that cash was siphoned to banks in London, including the partially-nationalized Lloyds Banking Group (NYSE: LYG).
Ocampo suggested if Bashir's stash of money were disclosed... it would change Sudanese public opinion from him being a 'crusader' to that of a thief, a senior US diplomat apparently said. Ocampo reported Lloyds bank in London may be holding or knowledgeable of the whereabouts of the money.
Lloyds responded that it could find no deposits held in Bashir's name.
We have absolutely no evidence to suggest there is any connection between Lloyds Banking Group and Mr Bashir. The group's policy is to abide by the legal and regulatory obligations in all jurisdictions in which we operate, the bank stated.
If the amount is correct, it would be the equivalent of Sudan's yearly GDP, stated the British newspaper Guardian, which first revealed the report.
In March 2009, Bashir was indicted for seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region, with an additional three counts of genocide added in July.
A spokesperson for the Sudanese government denied the allegations.
To claim that the president can control the treasury and take money to put into his own accounts is ludicrous - it is a laughable claim by the ICC prosecutor, Khalid al-Mubarak, an attache at the Sudanese embassy in London, told the Guardian. Ocampo is a maverick, and this is just part of his political agenda. He has failed miserably in all his cases and has refused to investigate Iraq or Gaza - he needs success and he has targeted Bashir to increase his own importance. Attempts to smear not only Bashir but Sudan as a whole are well known, and are clearly linked with anti-Arab sentiments and Islamophobia.
The cables further state China's rejection of taking legal action against Bashir, given China's significant interests in Sudan's oil industry.
Ocampo said China, as long as it continues to have oil concessions in Sudan, does not care what happens to Bashir, according to a cable.
Instead, according to a French diplomat, China was more concerned about how internal hostilities within Sudan might harm its oil interests.
The Chinese were beginning to see more clearly that Sudan's behavior towards Darfur and Chad could only increase the possibility of a north-south rupture will a possibly severe effect on China's stake in the oil sector, the Frenchman reportedly said.
An American official commented that the Chinese were puzzled by France's stance, since they too hold oil concessions in Sudan.