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Suspended Customs Chief Bags Two Years In jail

A former Burkina Faso customs chief under ousted president Blaise Compaore has been given a twoyear suspended sentence after a relative was found with a suitcase stuffed with nearly three million euros ($3.4m mn) in cash. Osmane Guiro was found “guilty of corruption” involving sums of around 1.37 million euros, judge Jean-Emile Somda has said. The sentence, and the seizure of his property worth a similar amount, was well below that sought by prosecutors, who had asked for Guiro to be jailed for 10 years as well as the seizure of most of his possessions.

The maximum penalty had been up to 20 years imprisonment. Guiro hugged relatives as the verdict was announced. The case had become emblematic of the corruption under Compaore, who was deposed as leader of the impoverished west African country last October. Guiro’s earned less than 800 euros as director general of customs when his nephew was reportedly caught carrying a suitcase containing cash worth nearly three million euros in December 2011, much of it in foreign currencies. Guiro, 62, who also held property valued at more than 1.14 million euros, had pleaded not guilty.

He will be released Sunday, according to lawyer Paulin Salembere, who said he was “very satisfied with the verdict”. Public prosecutors have five days to appeal. Although sacked by the former president, Guiro left prison after his arrest and was elected as a local councillor in 2012 under the banner of Compaore’s party. Anger at nepotism, corruption and impunity from the law were key elements in the revolt that ended Compaore’s 27-year rule and sent him into exile on October 31.

Burkina Faso is a major exporter of cotton and gold, but almost half the population lives on less than a dollar a days. The country’s interim president Michel Kafando has led an anti-corruption drive and complained several times that “someone like Ousmane Guiro can still be free”. The transitional government are focusing on good governance, with an anti-corruption law passed in March including heavy penalties for public officials convicted of malpractice. Guiro’s former department was ranked the west African country’s most corrupt in a local anti-graft watchdog’s 2010 report.

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