Official court documents of the U.S. District Court of Maryland acquired by The Point confirmed that the Yahya Jammeh Family in Equatorial Guinea have been served with U.S. Court documents requiring their response to suits of forfeiture against properties in the U.S.
Sources also confirmed that President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, said to the U.S. Ambassador in Equatorial Guinea that documents were indeed sent to the Jammeh residence in his country. The same have been confirmed by Justice Minister of the said country.
The said court motion had been a joint collaboration between the United States Department of Justice, the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS) and the Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice, along with other Gambian civil society and partner U.S. based and international bodies campaigning for accountability and justice for The Gambia under 22 years dictatorship of the Jammeh government.
The court document, titled "United States motion for entry of default judgement and final order of forfeiture" filed in the District Court of Maryland on 29 September 2021 explained that various efforts were made, as required by law, to formally serve notice, soliciting response from the family of ex-President Yahya Jammeh, his wife and Trust established in the U.S. to purchase the Potomac property and property management were all unsuccessful.
"Specifically, on or about February 4, 2021, the U.S. Department of State transmitted a Request for Assistance to the Central Authority of Equatorial Guinea from the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Office of International Affairs, pursuant to Article 18 of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, to which both the United States and the Republic of Equatorial Guinea are parties, seeking assistance in determining the current location of the Jammehs and serving the Jammehs with notice of the commencement of the civil forfeiture action against the Defendant Property," the motion stated.
Earlier in August this year, another Motion to "Permit Alternative Service" requested the said Court's permission of "alternative service of process" upon the property owner of 9908 Bentcross Drive, Pototmac, MD 20854.
In this motion, attorneys of the United States government said they filed action for forfeiture on July 15th 2020. It also indicates that the owner of the said property is the MYJ Family Trust, an unrecorded Trust Agreement dated September 1, 2009... beneficial owners of the Trust being Yahya Jammeh and his wife, Zineb Jammeh.
Pursuant to U.S. laws, attempts to serve notice of [the Amended] Complaint on the Jammehs as the Trustees in Equatorial Guinea through "internationally agreed means of service... reasonably calculated to give notice were made.
"As detailed in the Declaration of the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Susan N. Stevenson (ECF No. 13-1), despite good faith efforts, the United States was unable to confirm that the Amended Complaint was served on the Jammehs in Equatorial Guinea," the motion filed by state attorneys stated. That was partly due to the fact there was no response from the court documents sent to the said addresses.
"Specifically, Ambassador Stevenson delivered the Request for Assistance to multiple government officials in Equatorial Guinea and delivered the original documents to be served on the Jammehs to the Minister of Justice in Equatorial Guinea on May 4, 2021. Although the President of Equatorial Guinea told Ambassador Stevenson on July 13, 2021, that documents were sent to the Jammehs' residence (implying that the Jammehs remain in Equatorial Guinea), the Minister of Justice subsequently advised Ambassador Stevenson that his ministry had been unable to locate the Jammehs and advised "that the case should proceed with the understanding that the Governments of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and the United States had made good faith efforts to advise the Jammehs of the complaint," court documents stated.
Accordingly, upon consideration of the record in this case, including a showing of compliance with the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions, and a default having been entered by the Clerk of Court, the United States is entitled to the entry of a default judgment pursuant to Rule 55(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Moreover, to ensure that the United States has clear title to the Defendant Property and has the authority to dispose of the Defendant Property in accordance with law, the government now seeks the entry of a Final Order of Forfeiture.
Such an order was granted by the said District Court on 29 September, 2021. Deborah K. Chasanow, United States District Judge granted the order.
"The court finds that the property owner, the Trustees of the MYJ Revocable Trust, was served by alternative service no later than March 4th 2021, when a copy of the Notice and Amended Complaint were delivered via FedEx to the Dearborn, Michigan address listed in the trust documents for Zineb Yahya Jammeh, as Trustee," she said in her judgement.