April 2, 2009 / 6:36 AM / 10 years ago

Guinea ex-ministers freed, say will repay cash

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea’s military rulers released on bail three former mining ministers after the men agreed to repay money they are charged with embezzling, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

Captain Moussa Dadis Camara of Guinea (R), leader of the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) during the arrival of Libya's President Muammar Gaddafi in Conakry, January 3, 2009. REUTERS/Saliou Samb

Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, who vowed to fight corruption when he seized power in the world’s biggest bauxite producer last December, has targeted several people connected with late President Lansana Conte, whose death ushered in the army takeover.

“Former mines ministers Ahmed Tidiane Souare, Ousmane Sylla and Louceny Nabe were released this morning,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They said they agree to repay the money.”

The freed former ministers did not comment.

On Monday, a fourth ex-minister, Ahmed Kante, was arrested on the same charges, which were first publicised when the junta’s audit committee used a television broadcast in March to accuse the former ministers of embezzling about $5.3 million in total.

A military source said the men had been released from police custody after the audit committee questioned them again early on Wednesday.

Camara has singled out the mining industry, crucial to Guinea’s economy, for particular scrutiny.

The West African country is deeply impoverished despite its reserves of aluminium ore bauxite, gold and iron ore, and critics of Conte’s regime have accused senior officials of using mineral resources for private gain, depriving the treasury of much-needed income.

Camara’s National Council for Development and Democracy (CNDD) says it is trying to root out widespread corruption, but analysts say his inexperienced administration is showing increasingly authoritarian tendencies.

The junta said at the weekend it would hold presidential elections this December.

Last week, Camara threatened to invalidate Guinea’s contract with minerals firm Global Alumina, and in March told AngloGold Ashanti to shut down operations, a decision he later reversed.

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