The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a financial intelligence and enforcement agency of the U.S. Treasury Department, has a week ago published its 2020 list of sanctioned individuals and companies owned or controlled by targeted countries like Cuba or Iran. Though the Gambia is not specifically targeted, the country has harbored individuals, groups and entities that OFAC has either listed as terrorists, narcotics traffickers or Human Rights violators. Some 2020 Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons in relation with The Gambia have been regular names in the list for many years.
OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List also known as the “SDN List” has approximately 6,300 names connected with sanctions targets. OFAC also maintains other sanctions lists which have different associated prohibitions.
U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with anyone listed on the SDNs regardless of location and all SDN assets are blocked.
Edison Romana Castellanos, The Gambia “Designated Narcotics Kingpin”
One person of interest to the US Office of Foreign Assets Control with connections to The Gambia is Edison Romana (a.k.a. Castellanos Garzon, Henry a.k.a. Comandante Romana a.k.a. Romana). He is born on 20 March 1965 in San Martin, Colombia. Edison Romana Castellano is smacked with “individual sanctions as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficking Kingpin (SDNTK)“.
Henry Castellanos Garzon is a prominent figure of the Columbia FARC former guerilla, although his exact whereabouts have been unknown since 2018. As such, he was one of the negotiators of the 2016 Peace Agreement to end the civil war in Columbia. As a commander of the 53rd front during the rebellion, he operated mainly between Bogota and Villavicencio, and is said to be involved in massive and indiscriminate kidnappings.
Apart from his business in Antwerpen, Belgium and Freetown, Sierra Leone, Castellanos Garzon is said to have business at the 2nd floor of the Standard Chartered Bank Building, Kairaba Ave in The Gambia. Interestingly the Office of Foreign Assets Control says Castellanos Garzon Henry is linked to Mohammed Bazzi.
Kanafer Hicham a Gambian-Lebanese born in Lebanon and…, in Kuntaur
Kanafer Hicham or Kanafer Hisham also Khanafar Hisham or Khanafer Hicham Nmer known as well as Khanafir Hisham is the same person. He was born on 23rd May 1965 in Ainata, Lebanon. But the US financial intelligence and enforcement agency of the Treasury Department reveals that Kanafer Hicham has authentic Gambian documents showing that he was also born in Kuntaur, The Gambia. Holder of a double Lebanese-Gambian citizenship, Kanafer Hicham hit with individual additional sanctions pursuant to the Hizballah “Financial Sanctions Regulations” as “Specially Designated Global Terrorist“. According to US intelligence reports, Khanafer has allegedly hosted weekly meetings for Hezbollah supporters at his home in The Gambia, as well as weekly fundraising and recruiting drives for the group at a local mosque. Khanafer was designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the U.S. Department of the Treasury since June 2013.
Mohamed Bazzi, “Specially Designated Terrorist“, business partner to Yahya Jammeh
The name Bazzi Kassem Mohamad Ali also Bazi Qassem Mohammed Ali or Bazzi, Qasim Mohammed Ali, likewise Bazzi Qasim Muhammad Ali or Bazzi Mohammad Ibrahim designates the same person. Born in Lebanon on 2nd March 1964 Bazzi has Lebanese, British, a Belgian, Sierra Leonian and Gambian nationalities. He is a passeport holder to each of these countries. Bazzi is hit with “Additional Sanctions as an individual Specially Designated Global Terrorist Pursuant to the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations“. This is not the first time that the name of Mohammed Bazzi is included in the list of the US Office of Foreign Assets Control individuals targeted with sanctions.
In The Gambia, Bazzi is the owner of “Energy Engineers Procurement and Construction” a.k.a. “Global Trading Group” a.k.a. “Global Trading Group Nv.” “Euro African Group Ltd“, all located at the Standard Chartered Bank Building, 2nd floor, Kairaba Ave. A Commission of enquiry into the business dealings of former President Yahya Jammeh concluded in 2019 that Bazzi’s companies were awarded exclusive contracts by NAWEC using funds illegally withdrawn from the Central Bank of The Gambia and SSHFC under the directives of former President Jammeh.
Hussain Tajideen US “Specially Designated Terrorist“
Like Mohammed Bazzi, the name Taj Al Din, Husayn (a.k.a. Tajideen, Husayn; a.k.a. Tajideen, Hussein; a.k.a. Tajidine, Hajj Hussein) is not new in the list US Office of Foreign Assets Control administered sanctions programs. Tajideen is born in 1963 in The Gambia. He is subject to “Additional Sanctions Pursuant to the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations as an individual Specially Designated Global Terrorist“. His business in The Gambia is also subject to US sanctions. This include “Tajco“, 62 Buckle Street, Banjul, 1 Picton Street, Banjul, “Dohat Building” 1st Floor, Liberation Avenue in Banjul, “Grand Stores“, “Tajco Building“, “Kairaba Shopping Center” (a.k.a. Kairaba Supermarket).
Former Gambia Dictator Yahya Jammeh
Jammeh Babili Mansa, Yahya AJJ a.k.a. Jammeh, Alhaji Dr. Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung. Currently in exile in Equatorial Guinea, Jammeh who was born on 25th May 1965 in Kanilai in The Gambia, is sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights and Accountability Act. Yahya Jammeh is accused in The Gambia of having stolen millions of US dollars from the country’s coffers to fund a life of luxury and sponsor his political clients. After leaving office and going into exile in Equatorial Guinea, his assets were frozen by The Gambia, the USA and many other countries. In addition to charges of corruption, killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations, Yahya Jammeh is also accused of having raped a number of young women.
Identified businesses linked to Yahya Jammeh under US sanctions
Yahya Jammeh has some of his businesses smacked with the Global Magnitsky Human Rights and Accountability Act. This include “Africada Airways”, “Africada Financial Services & Bureau De Change Ltd”, “Africada Insurance Company”, “Africada Micro-Finance Ltd”, “Atlantic Pelican Company Ltd”, “Kanilai Family Farms”, “Kanilai Group International” a.k.a. “Kgi International Company Ltd”.
Other companies linked to Yahya Jammeh and equally sanctioned by the Global Magnitsky Human Rights and Accountability Act include “Kora Media Corporation Ltd”, “Palm Grove Africa Dev’t Corp. Ltd”, “Patriot Insurance Brokers Co. Ltd”, “Royal Africa Capital Holding Ltd” also Known “As Royal Africa Holding, Royal Africa Securities Brokerage Co Ltd“. All these entities are located in The Gambia.
Zeineb Jammeh, former First lady of The Gambia
Yahya Jammeh’s wife, former first lady Zeinab Zuma Jammeh (a.k.a. Jammeh, Zineb Souma Yahya; a.k.a. Jammeh, Zineb Yahya), is also the target of the US sanctions. Born on 05th Oct 1977 in Rabat, Morocco, it’s interesting to learn from the US Office of Foreign Assets Control that Zineb Jammeh is also a holder of both Equatorial Guinea and Moroccan nationalities. She is sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights and Accountability Act. The wife of the former Gambian dictator is suspected of controlling many assets in the United States.
The US Treasury Department blames Zineb Souma Yahya Jammeh for using her child protection foundation as a front to “facilitate the illicit transfer of funds to her husband“.
Dreaded former NIA director Yankuba Badjie, Yahya Jammeh’s spy chief
Badgie Yankuba, born on 24 or 25 Feb 1973 is the target of individual sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights and Accountability Act. Badjie was director general of the dreaded spy agency of Yahya Jammeh, the National Intelligence Agency. Yankuba Badjie is currently going trial in Banjul for tyhe murder of Solo Sandeng, arbitrary detention, forced disappearances and torture during Jammeh’s 22-year rule which ended in late 2016. Recently, accounts of torture under his purview have resurface during hearings of torture victims testifying before the Truth Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC).
Currently detained in Mile Two Prisons, Yankuba Badjie and six others are facing 25 criminal charges including conspiracy to commit felony, assault causing serious bodily harm, murder and making false documents amongst others.
Fatou Bom Bensouda, current Prosecutor of the ICC
The most controversial sanctions blocking the assets and travel to US of an individual in 2020 concerns Bensouda Fatou also known as Bensouda Fatou Bom. She is the target of individual sanctions for investigating whether US forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan. In June President Donald Trump issued an executive order allowing the US to block the assets of ICC employees and stop them entering the country. Human Rights Watch has condemned the sanctions on Fatou Bom Bensouda and her colleagues as a “shameful new low for US commitments to justice for victims of the worst crimes“.
If one thing the US 2020 “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons” list in relation with The Gambia has highlighted, it is the slow and little efforts done by the government of The Gambia to stay clear of some names associated with international crime, who recurrently appear in the US OFAC list. An enforcement, through the courts, of the Janneh Commission’s recommendations followed by a swift diplomatic advocacy would have gone a big deal into clearing the bad publicity inherited from Yahya Jammeh’s dubious interactions.