Hollywood star George Clooney on Thursday urged the international community to "step up" as he unveiled a report alleging links between global corporations, tycoons and governments and rampant corruption in South Sudan which has extracted billions of dollars in profits.
Clooney called on the United States and European Union to target those involved and their networks with new and tougher sanctions as his Africa-focused investigative project The Sentry released its latest findings on webs of corruption in the country.
"I believe they should do much more," he told a news conference in London with his prominent human rights lawyer wife Amal Clooney seated in the front row.
"I don't know if they can stop it but they can sure make it a lot harder," said Clooney, a longtime campaigner for human rights in the region, best known for his advocacy in Sudan's western region of Darfur.
The actor and activist co-founded The Sentry in 2015 with former US official John Prendergast.
Its 64-page report -- "The Taking of South Sudan" -- accuses multinational corporations and individuals of being "war profiteers" complicit with South Sudanese politicians and military officials in "ravaging the world's newest nation".
"Nearly every instance of confirmed or alleged corruption or financial crime in South Sudan examined by The Sentry has involved links to an international corporation, a multinational bank, a foreign government or high-end real estate abroad," it stated.
Clooney said the profiteers include "Chinese and Malaysian oil giants, British tycoons, and American businessmen".
"Without their support these atrocities could never have happened at this scale," he added.
- 'Follow the money' -
The report accuses Dar Petroleum Corp, the largest multinational oil consortium in South Sudan -- led by a Chinese state-owned oil company -- of providing "direct support to deadly militias".
Meanwhile Chinese investors formed a company with South Sudan President Salva Kiir's daughter and acquired several mining licenses in the country just weeks before the military reportedly drove thousands of people from the land where they held a permit, the research claims.
AFP sought comment from the consortium and the government, but they declined to comment, noting they had not read the report.
The probe also alleged an American arms trafficker tried to sell a trove of weapons to a South Sudanese warlord, and two British citizens formed an oil company with a warlord accused of forcibly recruiting thousands of child soldiers.
It said a $65 million scandal involving a South Sudanese general and a British tycoon illustrated "the impunity enjoyed by kleptocrats and their international collaborators".
The Sentry is composed of financial investigators, international human rights lawyers, and regional experts as well as former law enforcement agents, intelligence officers, policymakers, investigative journalists and banking professionals.
It has previously reported on corruption and human rights abuses by South Sudan's civilian and military leaders, but Clooney said its new strategy was to "follow the money".
"If you can't shame them (officials), then you can shame the people who do business with them," he told reporters.
"You can make it difficult for certain financial institutions to look the other way.
"That can be an effective tool -- a much more effective tool than trying to shame a warlord."