Justice for Victims of Corruption The Sentry

What is The Sentry?

CFJ is a strategic partner of The Sentry, an independent investigative and policy team co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast.

The Sentry focuses primarily on the conflict zone spanning South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic. By creating hard-hitting reports and evidence-rich dossiers on individuals and entities connected to corruption, violence, and human rights abuses, and by sharing those with regulatory and law enforcement agencies and banks around the world, The Sentry aims to create significant financial consequences for kleptocrats, war criminals, and their international collaborators.

Using network sanctions, anti-money laundering measures, prosecutions, compliance action by banks, asset seizures, and other tools of financial and legal pressure, the aim is to disrupt the cost-benefit calculations of those who hijack governments for self-enrichment and create new leverage for peace, human rights, and good governance. The Sentry engages intensively with policymakers, law enforcement officials, and banks around the world. It also supports activist campaigns involving students, faith-based groups, human rights organizations, public figures, and others.

Work and Impact

Making War Criminals Pay

The area encompassing East and Central Africa is the deadliest war zone globally since World War II. Over the past three decades alone, tens of millions have died and millions more have faced starvation and displacement as a result of conflict, repression, and corruption. In a region marked by spectacular wildlife and natural resource wealth in the form of oil, gold, diamonds, and other minerals, monstrous crimes occur: genocide, human trafficking, mass rape, village burning, and child soldier recruitment. Unchecked greed is one of the main drivers of these atrocities. African dictators and war criminals, along with their commercial partners and facilitators in Europe, Asia, and America, use Africa’s spectacular resources to enrich themselves beyond imagination and violently crush any who would dare challenge this deadly status quo. The way to change this system is to shut down those who profit from human suffering.

The Strategy

Every year, leaders from corrupt regimes, armed groups, and their international collaborators loot billions of dollars from East and Central Africa. These ill-gotten gains enter the international financial system, primarily in US dollars, but also in euros and pounds sterling, and thus become vulnerable to law enforcement action, freezes, and even seizure. But first, the dirty money must be tracked: the mazes of shell companies, offshore bank accounts, and luxury homes must be exposed and documented to provide evidence on which banks and governments can act.

That’s where The Sentry comes in. Since its launch in 2016, The Sentry has converted extensive investigative research into evidence-rich dossiers and reports and then used those to engage with governments and banks in deploying policy tools in support of peace and human rights. By advocating for the application of network sanctions, anti-money laundering measures, and other anticorruption strategies that are normally utilized to counter terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and drug trafficking, The Sentry helps creates significant financial consequences for those who seek to benefit from violence.

The Impact in Africa

In the case of South Sudan, the use of an array of financial pressures and anti-money laundering measures urged by The Sentry and made possible by its investigative dossiers helped:

  • Create consequences for human rights abuses, including those against civil society and journalists. For example, in January 2020, the US applied financial pressures on a top-level South Sudanese politician, First Vice President Taban Deng, accused of being party to the murder of a human rights activist and a politician. In addition, five South Sudanese officials were placed under sanctions in December 2019 for the murder of a human rights activist and a politician.
  • Target those involved in grand corruption. For example, The Sentry published a report on Ashraf Seed Ahmed Hussein Ali, or “Al-Cardinal,” a Sudanese businessmen involved in facilitating corruption in South Sudan. Days later, he and his network were placed under sanctions by the US under the Global Magnitsky sanctions authority.
  • Push the fractured leadership to sign a peace deal in 2018 and to move towards the formation of a power-sharing government in 2020. For example, sanctions on the First Vice President sent a clear signal that the international community was willing to create serious consequences for the government. This action may have been instrumental in cajoling the government to step down from hardline positions and eventually agree to key opposition demands, paving the way for the formation of the government of national unity.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, investigative research and coordinated advocacy by The Sentry, together with pressure from courageous Congolese civil society, contributed to the imposition of network sanctions and the threat of escalated sanctions aimed at some of the biggest profiteers of war and corruption inside and outside the country. These, in turn, helped:

  • Convince the sitting president not to change the Constitution and run for a third term, which very likely would have led to mass violence. This helped pave the way for initial governance reforms to begin, although there is a long road ahead. For example, US sanctions on one of the president’s chief business partners and dozens of his companies played a significant role in his calculations on whether to stay on as president against the will of the people.
  • Address the conflict gold trade, which continues to fund armed violence and support armed groups. For example, The Sentry’s exposé of a major conflict gold trading network led to one major gold refiner named in the report being delisted from an international certification body, another losing international buyers, and yet another being investigated for money laundering. Two of the people behind the network were convicted of money laundering in 2020. The exposé also helped lead US Customs to issue an order making it illegal to import gold mined using forced labor from the DRC.

In Sudan, through coordinated advocacy and in-depth reporting and investigations aimed at weakening the hold of the old regime and supporting the transition to civilian rule, The Sentry helped:

  • Support work to maintain pressure on the Bashir regime, including through a series of reports exposing the atrocity crimes of the Bashir regime and outlining the extent of grand corruption under his rule.
  • Provide key technical and policy input during negotiations surrounding the political transition.
  • Bolster efforts to provide evidence and engage policymakers attempting to remove the new Sudanese government from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List.
  • Target spoilers continuing to undermine Sudan’s democratic transition through the use of targeted network sanctions on individuals and entities.