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[NEW YORK] A former Guinean cabinet minister was convicted in New York of money laundering over a scheme to launder US$8.5 million in bribes from a Chinese conglomerate in exchange for mining rights.
Mahmoud Thiam, 50, who is also a US citizen, was arrested in December 2016 and convicted Wednesday after a seven-day trial, the US attorney's office said Thursday.
He was convicted on one count of transacting in criminally derived property, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and one count of money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Thiam is scheduled to be sentenced on August 11.
US prosecutors said he took millions of dollars in bribes from senior representatives of a Chinese conglomerate in 2009 and 2010 to facilitate mining rights while Guinea's minister of mines and geology.
Thiam was found to have concealed the bribes in a Hong Kong bank account before transferring the money to the United States where he used some of it to build an estate in New York state.
"Thiam abused his official government position to enrich himself at the expense of one of Africa's poorest countries," said acting Manhattan US attorney Joon Kim.
He laundered the proceeds into the United States "to fund his lavish lifestyle," said Mr Kim, buying a multi-million dollar estate and sending his children to private school.
China has become a key trade partner with many nations in Africa, where it is eager to tap into the continent's mineral and energy resources to help feed its fast-paced economic growth.