AUSTRALIAN POLICE SEIZED a $1.5 MANSION FROM THE FAMILY OF FORMER SPLA CHIEF OF STAFF JAMES HOTH MAI
POLICE have moved to seize a $1.5 million mansion in Melbourne’s southeast from the family of a former South Sudanese general linked to the nation’s military elite which fleeced millions of dollars from the war-torn country. The Australian Federal Police took the case against General James Hoth Mai Nguoth, and several members of his family, to the County Court of Victoria on Tuesday as it pushes ahead with a proceeds of crime restraint. It is targeting the luxury Narre Warren home, which has an infinity pool, sauna and five-car
garage, as well as an Audi owned by the family. Gen Hoth Mai’s family bought the sprawling property in 2014 when his wife and children were living in taxpayer-funded housing commission accommodation. Investigators from the AFP’s Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT) launched a probe into the purchase of the property in September 2016 following allegations that several former and current South Sudanese public officials have bought houses in Australia with the proceeds of corruption.
General James Hoth Mai’s family bought the sprawling Narre Warren property in 2014 when his wife and children were living in taxpayer-funded housing commission accommodation.
Police have moved to seize the $1.5 million mansion in Narre Warren. Gen Hoth Mai was named in a 2016 r port compiled by The Sentry, a team of investigators targeting those who profit from genocide in Africa co-founded by actor George Clooney. Gen Hoth Mai served as the chief of staff in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army from May 2009 to April 2014. Before that he was the deputy chief of staff for logistics.
Investigators understand his biggest salary was no more than $58,000. “Gen Hoth Mai is a well-known military commander in South Sudan,” Mr. Bailey said.
“We discovered his purchase of the Melbourne home during a 2016 investigation into the assets accrued by senior South Sudanese military and government officials.
“The Sentry found Hoth Mai’s purchase of the Melbourne home to be noteworthy — and worthy of additional scrutiny — for several reasons.” General James Hoth Mai was named in a 2016 report compiled by The Sentry, a team of investigators co-founded by actor George Clooney. The Sentry report accuses senior officials on relatively low salaries in South Sudan of
profiteering from the country’s civil war. “First, the cost of the home far surpassed what one could reasonable afford on the salary of a general of Hoth Mai’s rank,” Mr. Bailey said.
“Second, the Hoth Mai family had purchased the home shortly after having resided in subsidized housing, a major sudden change in the family’s lifestyle. “Finally, the home was purchased in the name of Hoth Mai’s son, who had only recently graduated from college. “We considered this a possible attempt to obfuscate the General’s connection to the purchase.
Taken as a whole, the circumstances of the transaction, we found, merit more scrutiny from relevant law enforcement and regulatory authorities.” Shortly after The Sentry published its report — War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay: Stopping the looting and destruction in South Sudan — the AFP launched a probe with help from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.
Investigators visited the Narre Warren property in August 2016 and saw a BMW 316i, used by one of Gen Hoth Mai’s daughters, in the driveway. An AFP spokeswoman said: “The investigation, which included assistance from the ACIC, focused on the acquisition of assets in Australia by the family members of an individual who is believed to have held senior positions including chief of staff in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army between May 2009 and April 2014.” The General and his family did not appear at the County of Court of Victoria on Tuesday when the AFP’s criminal assets confiscation and proceeds of crime matter was heard. The case, before Judge Susan Cohen, was adjourned for three weeks.
Clooney, writing in The Sentry’s 2016 report, said the organization's investigators spent two years “following the money underwriting South Sudan’s war economy”.
“The Sentry’s investigation has generated substantial information indicating that top officials ultimately responsible for mass atrocities in South Sudan have at some time managed to
accumulate fortunes, despite modest government salaries,” Clooney said. The original sale documents for the Narre Warren property lists the general’s wife, Nyawarga
Hoth Mai, as the buyer. The luxury Narre Warren home has an infinity pool.
The documents were then altered on the day the sale went through in August 2014 and buyer was listed as the general’s son, Nguoth Hoth Mai, an Australian citizen.
Barrister Simon McGregor, for the General’s family, declined to comment.