The Sentry

What is The Sentry?

CFJ is a partner of and provides significant financial support to The Sentry, an independent investigative team co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast that follows the dirty money looted by the war criminals most responsible for Africa’s deadliest conflicts and their commercial collaborators.

The Sentry currently focuses on South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic. By creating hard-hitting reports and dossiers on individuals and entities that can be shared with regulatory and law enforcement agencies around the world, as well as the world’s largest banks, 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, and other tools of financial pressure, the aim is to disrupt the profit incentive for mass atrocities and oppression, and create new leverage in support of peace and human rights. The Sentry also undertakes high-level advocacy with policymakers around the world as well as wide-reaching education campaigns by mobilizing students, faith-based groups, public figures, and others.

Work and Impact

Making War Criminals Pay

The area stretching from northeast to 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 have faced starvation as a result of conflict, repression, and corruption. In a region marked by spectacular natural resource wealth in the form of oil, gold, diamonds, other minerals, elephants, and other wildlife, monstrous crimes occur: genocide, human trafficking, rape as a weapon of war, village burning, child soldier recruitment.  Unchecked greed is one of the main drivers behind these atrocities. This violent kleptocratic system is enabled by networks of brokers, traffickers, mining companies, banks, arms dealers, and shell companies. 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 this region of Africa. The 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, those money trails need to be tracked — the mazes of shell companies, offshore bank accounts, and luxury homes must be exposed and documented to provide the evidence for banks and governments to act.

That’s where The Sentry comes in. Bringing forward actionable policy recommendations built upon dossiers and reports from our in-depth investigations, The Sentry presses governments and banks to deploy policy tools such as anti-money laundering measures, network sanctions, and other anti-corruption strategies that are normally utilized to counter terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and drug trafficking in support instead of peace and human rights.

The Impact in Africa

Investigations, financial pressure, and law enforcement actions take time.  To make an impact on the powerful profiteer networks and directly affect the lives of millions of people living in war zones takes time as well. Nevertheless, the strategy is already making a difference in Africa. For example:

  • Following investigative research and coordinated advocacy by The Sentry and other anti-corruption and human rights organizations, the US Treasury Department imposed the first set of actions under the US Global Magnitsky sanctions program against the network of one of then-President Joseph Kabila’s long-time business partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This was a massive blow to one of the President’s closest allies and his companies, exposing the president’s business networks to significant vulnerability. It constituted a key component of a series of increasing pressures that played a role in Kabila’s decision to break with the pattern of nearly all of the leaders of neighboring countries and step down in favor of elections, rather than change the constitution to enable him to maintain power indefinitely.
  • In a series of hard-hitting investigative exposés, The Sentry revealed to the world how South Sudan’s civil war was sparked and fueled by the greed of its leaders. Leading investigations by The Sentry zeroed in on a number of South Sudanese military commanders, exposing their corrupt conduct and role in looting and mass atrocities. Shortly thereafter, these generals and their companies were hit with US sanctions targeting their personal and corporate assets. For instance, a Sentry investigation exposed a former Chief of Staff of South Sudan’s armed forces, who had been living a life of luxury overseas using funds that he had stolen from the state. Shortly after, Australian Federal Police seized a $1.5 million mansion belonging to the general that had been prominently featured in a Sentry report. The Sentry also exposed two businessmen close to South Sudan’s President, one for trafficking weapons, the other for looting state coffers. The US government then used the Global Magnitsky sanctions program to cut them off from the US financial system, undermining their ability to carry out further financial crimes. These and other combined sanctions helped to push South Sudan’s leaders to a peace agreement after years of a brutal civil war.