Police have launched proceedings to seize a $1.5million mansion owned by the family of a former South Sudanese general named in a corruption report written by George Clooney.
General James Hoth Mai Nguoth served as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army’s chief-of-staff from May 2009 until April 2014.
In 2016 he was accused of stealing money from his war-torn country’s coffers in a report by an investigations team called The Sentry which was founded by Clooney.
Now police are targeting his luxury mansion in Narre Warren, Melbourne under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The estate, officially bought by the general’s son in 2014, boasts an infinity pool, sauna and five-car garage.
The Australian Federal police suspect the general, whose salary was around AUD$57,000, bought the mansion with the proceeds of corruption.
Their Criminal Assets Confiscation Task force started a probe in 2016 and on Tuesday began proceedings at the High Court, which have now been suspended for three weeks.
The Sentry report titled War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay: Stopping The Looting And Destruction In South Sudan contains a page on General Hoth among other figures it accuses of corruption.
It says: ‘Even as a senior official in the SPLA, his salary was never more than about AUD$58,000 per year.
‘However, Gen. Hoth Mai’s retirement home appears to indicate that his tenure in the SPLA was far more lucrative than his salary would suggest.
‘In June 2014, the Hoth Mai family purchased a home in a beautiful suburb of Melbourne, Australia, in the name of Gen. Hoth Mai’s son for AUD$1,500,000.
‘Notably, Nguoth Oth Mai – Gen. Hoth Mai’s 23-year-old son who purchased the house – was studying in China until mid-December 2013, just six months prior to the transaction.
‘The residence is situated on a one-acre lot backing up to a forested area bordering nearby Lysterfield Lake, a popular destination for sailing, canoeing, and mountain biking.
‘The home is described by the realty company that sold it as ‘perfecting the balance between serenity and glamour.’
‘The home boasts four bedrooms, a top-of-the-line kitchen, a two-tiered home theater, a sauna, and an infinity pool.’
It adds: ‘When The Sentry visited the home in August 2016, a BMW 316i used by one of Hoth Mai’s daughters was parked in front of the house.’
In court yesterday, JR Mailey, Investigations Director at The Sentry, explained why the group was suspicious of the purchase, reported the Herald Sun.
He said: ‘First, the cost of the home far surpassed what one could reasonable afford on the salary of a general of Hoth Mai’s rank.
‘Second, the Hoth Mai family had purchased the home shortly after having resided in subsidised 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.’
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 legal proceedings are a civil matter under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The alleged offences are breach of directors’ duties, causing a loss to the Commonwealth and obtaining a gain from the Commonwealth. No criminal charges have be laid. The general did not attend court and his lawyer declined to comment.