US sanctions Gambia's ex-First Lady Zineb Jammeh

Zineb and Yahya Jammeh on 20 September 2006Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Yahya and Zineb Jammeh lived in the presidential mansion in The Gambia until they were exiled

The US has imposed sanctions on The Gambia's former First Lady Zineb Jammeh after accusing her of corruption during her husband Yahya Jammeh's rule.

She was suspected to have helped him in the illegal transfer of money, and controlled his assets abroad, the US Treasury said.

Mr Jammeh stole about $50m (£38.4m) before he was ousted in 2017, according to The Gambia's justice ministry.

The couple have previously denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Jammeh's 22-year-rule in The Gambia - a popular tourist destination because of its beaches - was marred by allegations of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detentions.

He refused to accept defeat in elections in December 2016 and The Gambia's neighbours sent troops to force him out.

In a statement, the US treasury said it believed Mr Jammeh "used a number of corrupt schemes to plunder The Gambia's state coffers or otherwise siphon off state funds for his personal gain".

"Zineb is also believed to be in charge of most of Jammeh's assets around the world, and utilised a charitable foundation as cover to facilitate the illicit transfer of funds to her husband," it added.

Her assets in the US will be blocked and people in the US are banned from doing property deals with her.

The US Department of Justice had already sought in July the forfeiture of a $3.5m house that Mrs Jammeh had bought in the US state of Maryland, the treasury said.

Mr Jammeh divorced his first wife Tuti Faal and subsequently married two other women, though his official website referred only to Zineb Yahya Jammeh, who held the title of First Lady.

He was known to be an eccentric ruler, who claimed in 2007 that he could cure Aids and infertility with herbal concoctions. His view was dismissed by health experts.

Yahya Jammeh: At a glance

  • Seized power in a coup in 1994 aged 29
  • In 2013, he vowed to stay in power for "a billion years" if God wills
  • He also ordered the execution of criminals and political opponents on death row
  • Claimed in 2007 he could cure Aids and infertility with herbal concoctions
  • Warned in 2008 that gay people would be beheaded
  • Denied his security agents killed journalist Deyda Hydara in 2004
  • Forced from power in January 2017 by regional powers after losing elections in 2016

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