A former Guinean government minister, Mahmoud Thiam, was sentenced to seven years in prison on Friday following his conviction for laundering $8.5 million in bribes that United States prosecutors said he took in exchange for helping a Chinese conglomerate secure mining rights.
The sentence, imposed by U.S. District Judge, Denise Cote, in Manhattan federal court, was less severe than the 10 years suggested by federal guidelines, Reuters reported.
Cote said she had considered the good that Thiam, a U.S. citizen, had done for his native country when he returned there to take the government job in 2009.
“I find he went to Guinea to help, not to rob it,” the judge said. “I find he did help in many ways.”
“He saw corruption all around him, and decided ultimately to succumb to corruption,” she said.
Thiam’s lawyer, Aaron Goldsmith, said after the sentencing he would appeal the conviction, adding the sentence was “better than we feared, not as good as we hoped.”
“We feel very strongly that there is a lack of evidence sufficient to prove Mr. Thiam’s intent to accept the payment as a bribe,” Goldsmith said.
Thiam, 50, was convicted by a jury in May of one count of money laundering and one count of engaging in transactions in property with a criminal source.
The case was one of several corruption cases around the world tied to Guinea’s mining sector.
Source: The Nation
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