Sudan leader accused of 'hiding' $9bn in UK bank

Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, is alleged to have siphoned up to $9bn out of his impoverished country, according to secret US cables recalling conversations with the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, which have been revealed on WikiLeaks.

Some of the funds may be held in accounts in Britain at the Lloyds Banking Group, according to the prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who told US officials that "if Bashir's stash of money were disclosed, it would change Sudanese public opinion from him being a 'crusader' to a thief".

Lloyds denied that there was any evidence to suggest the presence of holding funds in Bashir's name. "We have absolutely no evidence to suggest there is any connection between Lloyds Banking Group and Mr Bashir," the bank said.

Despite the humanitarian crisis in Sudan, Bashir has retained his popularity among the majority of his people, particularly those who benefited from the oil boom over which he presided.

A spokesman for the Sudanese government dismissed the claims as "ludicrous", a "laughable" claim by the ICC who wished to discredit the Sudan government. "Attempts to smear not only Bashir but Sudan as a whole are well known, and are clearly linked with anti-Arab sentiments and Islamophobia," the spokesman added.

But if Ocampo's claim about Bashir's fortune is correct, the funds could be redistributed to victims of human rights abuses, said Human Rights Watch: "If Bashir were to be tried and convicted, these funds could not just be frozen, but used as a source of reparations for victims... [of] horrific crimes in Darfur."

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