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Sudan seizes land, businesses that 'support Hamas'

September 23, 2021 at 11:18 am

Exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal (R) sits next to former Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir during the opening of the eighth Al-Quds (Jerusalem) International Foundation conference in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on 6 March 2011 [EBRAHIM HAMID/AFP via Getty Images]

Sudanese authorities have taken control of lucrative assets that are said to have provided backing for Hamas, Reuters reports.

The takeover of at least a dozen companies that officials say were linked to Hamas has helped accelerate Sudan’s realignment with the West since the overthrow of President Omar Al-Bashir in 2019. Over the past year, Khartoum has won removal from the US state sponsors of terrorism (SST) list and is on course for relief of more than $50 billion in debt.

Hamas has lost a foreign base where members and supporters could live, raise money, and channel weapons and funds to the Gaza Strip, Sudanese and Palestinian analysts said.

Seized assets detailed by Sudanese official sources and a Western intelligence source show the reach of those networks.

According to officials from a task force set up to dismantle the Bashir regime, they include real estate, company shares, a hotel in a prime Khartoum location, an exchange bureau, a TV station, and more than a million acres of farmland.

Sudan became a centre for money laundering and terrorism financing, said Wagdi Salih, a leading member of the task force – the Committee to Dismantle the June 30, 1989 Regime and Retrieve Public Funds.

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The system was “a big cover, a big umbrella, internally and externally”, he said.

A Western intelligence source said techniques were used in Sudan that are common to organised crime: Companies were headed by trustee shareholders, rents collected in cash, and transfers made through exchange bureaux.

Al-Bashir openly supported Hamas, and was friendly with its leaders.

“They got preferential treatment in tenders, tax forgiveness, and they were allowed to transfer to Hamas and Gaza with no limits,” said a task force member, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Last year, under pressure from the US, Sudan joined the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in agreeing to normalise ties with Israel.

A former US diplomat who worked on Sudan under the Trump administration said shutting down the Hamas network was a focus in negotiations with Khartoum. “We were pushing on an open door,” he said.

The United States gave Sudan a list of companies to shut down, according to one Sudanese source and the Western intelligence source. The State Department declined to comment.

Sudan’s transitional leaders “consider themselves the exact antithesis of Bashir in regional terms,” said Sudanese analyst Magdi El Gazouli. “They want to sell themselves as a component of the new security order in the region.”

“The coup against Al-Bashir caused real problems for Hamas and Iran,” said Palestinian analyst Adnan Abu Amer. “Hamas and Iran had to look for alternatives – alternatives that had not been in place because the coup against Al-Bashir was a sudden one.”