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Ex-governor of Bayelsa arrested over graft

09 May 2013, 07:26

Abuja -The ex-governor of an oil-rich Nigerian state was arrested on Wednesday and interrogated in connection with fraud charges, in one of the most high-profile arrests for the country's anti-graft bureau.

Timipre Sylva, who headed the southern Bayelsa state until December 2011, "was found hiding in a dingy corner in the upper chamber of his expansive mansion," in Abuja after his staff claimed he was out of town, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said in a statement.

Bayelsa, in the Niger Delta, is one of Nigeria's three major oil producing states, generating much of the two million barrels of crude the country's produces daily.

Several other past Niger Delta governors have been caught up in massive graft cases, including James Ibori of Delta state, currently serving a 13-year sentence in a British jail for money laundering.

"Sylva is being grilled in connection with fresh evidence linking him with a bouquet of fraudulent transactions that borders on money laundering," the EFCC statement said.

"Part of the new evidence includes a number of eye-popping real estate acquisitions in Abuja."

President Goodluck Jonathan, also a former Bayelsa governor, has vowed to clean up the sector but his performance so far has been fiercely criticised.

In March, he oversaw the executive pardon of Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, yet another ex-Bayelsa governor mired in corruption charges who pleaded guilty to money laundering in 2007 and served two years in prison.

The United States publicly criticised that pardon.

The EFCC's track record in punishing powerful politicians has been mixed, with the commission boasting a series of high-profile arrests, but few convictions to match.

It scolded Sylva for failing to appear for questioning as promised on May 7.

"The Commission warns that it will not longer tolerate the antics of suspects who treat its invitation with levity," the statement said.



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