Ex-ruler of Gambia made off with millions, luxury cars

Krista Larson
Associated Press

Banjul, Gambia — Exiled Gambian ruler Yahya Jammeh stole millions of dollars in his final weeks in power, plundering the country’s state coffers and shipping luxury vehicles by cargo plane, a special adviser for the new president said Sunday.

Mai Ahmad Fatty told journalists in neighboring Senegal that already they have determined Jammeh made off with more than $11.4 million during a two-week period alone.

“The Gambia is in financial distress. The coffers are virtually empty. That is a state of fact,” Fatty said. “It has been confirmed by technicians in the ministry of finance and the Central Bank of the Gambia.”

Fatty also confirmed that a Chadian cargo plane had transported luxury goods out of the country on Jammeh’s behalf in his final hours in power, including an unknown number of vehicles.

Fatty said officials with the new government “regret the situation” and would stop any additional belongings of Jammeh from leaving Gambia. It appeared, though, that the major damage had been done, leaving Gambia with little recourse to recoup the funds.

Jammeh, who ruled this impoverished West African nation for more than 22 years, went into exile late Saturday under mounting international pressure. He is now in Equatorial Guinea, home to Africa’s longest-serving ruler.

Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow, who defeated Jammeh in December elections, remained in Senegal for safety reasons after being inaugurated at Gambia’s embassy there Thursday. He has said he would come home “soon.”

A regional military force that had been poised to force out Jammeh if diplomatic efforts failed rolled into Gambia’s capital, Banjul, on Sunday night to secure it for Barrow’s arrival.

Hundreds greeted the force’s approach to the president’s official residence, State House, cheering and dancing, while some people grabbed soldiers to take selfies.