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Investigators recommended on Thursday that two powerful South Sudanese ex-ministers face trial for a multi-million dollar corruption scandal, the first time the graft-riddled nation would hold such senior figures to account.
Billions of dollars of lucrative oil revenues have been systematically stolen from South Sudan, the government says, blocking efforts by the grossly underdeveloped young nation to rebuild after decades of war.
Former cabinet affairs minister Deng Alor and ex-finance minister Kosti Manibe were suspended in June after being fingered in the alleged theft of eight million dollars (six million euros) from government coffers.
Investigators said the money was “un-procedurally transferred” to a bank in Kenya allegedly to buy 62 fire-resistant safes, none of which ever arrived.
The safes would have cost a staggering 128 000 dollars (97 000 euros) each.
“The finding... is for criminal proceedings,” government investigation team leader John Gatwech told AFP. “It is now up to the president to take people to the court.”
However, all the money has since been returned, added Gatwech, who is also South Sudan's anti-corruption commission chief.
When South Sudan won its freedom in July 2011 it had some of the worst development indicators of any nation on earth.
President Salva Kiir has publicly tried to investigate top officials and claw back stolen cash.
Last year he wrote to 75 past and present officials demanding they return $4 billion of public money they were accused of stealing.
Letters were also sent to heads of states in regional nations as well as in Europe, the Middle East and the United States asking for help in recovering the cash.
Alor, from the flashpoint Abyei region claimed both by Sudan and South Sudan, is from the powerful Dinka Ngok ethnic group and served alongside Kiir when he was still a rebel leader.
Alor also served as foreign minister of a united Sudan before the South broke away from the North and was one of the most senior figures in government.
Manibe hails from the Zande group in Western Equatoria. - Sapa-AFP