An expert panel presented the UN Security Council with a report this week outlining the alleged corruption practices of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The main finding of the report highlighted the fortune - estimated to be between $32-$60 billion (28 billion-53 billion euros) - which the former strongman amassed during his 33 years in power.
"These assets are said to take the form of property, cash, shares, gold and other valuable commodities," the expert report said, adding that he had transferred the majority of those assets to roughly 20 countries under false names.
According to the findings of the UN probe, Saleh was able to hide the funds with the help of five prominent Yemeni businessmen. Using companies and other individuals as fronts also helped shield him from assets freezes.
"The origin of the funds used to generate [Saleh's] wealth is believed to be…particularly [related] to gas and oil contracts where he reportedly asked for money in exchange for granting companies exclusive rights to prospect for gas and oil in Yemen."
The investigators estimated that he earned nearly $2 billion annually during his presidency.
"Many have argued that the country's spiraling debt and economic problems would be alleviated with a repatriation of these alleged stolen assets," it added.
Saleh and Yemen's political turmoil
Yemen has devolved into economic instability and political turmoil in the time since Saleh's forced resignation in 2012 after Yemen's Arab Spring uprising. Most recently, Shiite Houthi rebels have solidified their power in Yemen's north and taken over the capital city, Sanaa. The political crisis resulted in house arrest for President Abd Rabu Mansour, who recently fled to the south and rescinded his resignation.
Wednesday's report included information from sources who alleged that Saleh has been stockpiling weapons since being deposed, supporting allegations that he has played a role in the current unrest.
Many countries, including Germany, the United States and Middle Eastern nations have closed their embassies in Yemen amid security concerns. Late last week, rival factions in Yemen agreed to create a transitional council under UN oversight in order to help govern the country along with the parliament. The council is to include representatives from social groups that have traditionally lacked a voice in Yemeni politics.
kms/sms (AP, dpa)