January 16, 2011 / 10:28 PM / 10 years ago

Niger's Tandja in prison on graft charges-sources

NIAMEY, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Niger ex-President Mamadou Tandja was moved to prison from house arrest on Sunday, after the ruling military junta charged him with graft during his rule, according judicial sources.

At least $128 million were stolen from the West African state’s coffers during Tandja’s 10 years in office, according to the results of an investigation launched by the junta that were released in December.

“Tandja was moved to the Kollo prison by court order Sunday afternoon, after a hearing on a complaint by the state of Niger that he embezzled public funds,” a senior judicial source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Tandja, who ruled the uranium exporter from 1999 to 2010, had previously been under house arrest and had appealed to the junta to spare him prosecution because of his poor health.

He was ousted by the military in February in a dramatic attack on the presidential palace after he had drawn international sanctions for amending the constitution to further extend his rule and broaden his powers.

The junta, led by General Salou Djibo, has promised to transfer power back to civilians through presidential elections, the first round of which is scheduled for Jan. 31, but also said it hoped to clean up corruption first.

Niger is the top supplier of uranium to France’s nuclear power sector and is struggling to combat a growing security threat from al Qaeda linked militant groups in its northern desert region. (Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalatchi; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Jon Boyle)

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