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Sudan's Bashir stashed millions in cash in secret room

Only former president Omar al-Bashir had key to room filled with money; court told of huge handouts
Omar al-Bashir was thrown out of office in April after three decades ruling Sudan (AFP)

Sudan's ousted ruler Omar al-Bashir held the only key to a room in the presidential palace he used to stash millions of euros, his last office manager testified on Saturday.

Speaking at Bashir's trial on charges of possessing illicit foreign currency and corruption, Yasser Basheer said the former president gave him more than euros 10m ($11m) in cash in his final months of rule for delivery to different parties.

Sudan's military overthrew Bashir in April after months of protests. His prosecution is a test of how far power-sharing military and civilian authorities will tackle the legacy of his 30-year authoritarian rule.

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The former office manager, who worked for Bashir from September 2018 and was speaking as a defence witness, said the president once gave him euros 5m for Abdelrahim Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The money, Basheer said, was delivered in the presence of Abdelrahim's brother Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the  RSF head known as Hemeti and one of the most powerful generals since Bashir's fall from power. He is now a member of the Sovereign Council formed in a military-civilian power-sharing deal.

Other recipients of cash included the defence ministry, plus military personnel and civilians for medical treatment, Basheer said, adding that he did not know the source of the cash and was only following orders.

Abdelmoneim Mohamed, an accountant at the International University of Africa, a private institution with links to Islamists, also testified in Bashir's defence. He said the university's director and deputy director received euros 4m in cash from Bashir.

Bashir sat in a metal cage in the courtroom wearing traditional white robes and turban.

Though he did not speak at Saturday's hearing, he denied the charges when formally indicted a week ago.

Speaking publicly for the first time since his ouster, Bashir said last week he had received $25m from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as from other sources, but had not received or used money for his own benefit.

"I used the money for private donations to various parties," including medical services, a university, an Islamic media channel, and urgent fuel provision, he said.

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Millions of euros and Sudanese pounds were found at Bashir's residence in April, a judicial source said.

The charges carry maximum prison sentences of around 10 years. The next hearing is set for 14 September.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague issued arrest warrants against him in 2009 and 2010 on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.

Middle East Eye reported last week that the ICC is planning to submit a new request for Bashir to be handed over for trial, encouraged by the current corruption proceedings. 

Many in Sudan believe, however, that the current cases are cosmetic and are preparing to lodge more serious charges, including the toppling of the democratically elected government in 1989, much larger cases of corruption, and the deaths of protesters on earlier occasions.

The Alliance of Sudanese Lawyers has vowed to collect and submit hundreds of cases against Bashir.

Those cases include alleged atrocities in war zones, the killing of protesters and other civilians, missing persons, and concerning the thousands of people dismissed from their jobs for political reasons.