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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 June, 2005, 21:43 GMT 22:43 UK
Troops jailed for Ivorian robbery
French tanks at BCEAO in Bouake
French troops are supposed to be bringing calm to Ivory Coast
Twelve French peacekeepers have been found guilty of stealing money from a bank in Ivory Coast, which they were supposed to be guarding last year.

They were sentenced to between two months and a year each in prison by a military court in Paris.

The soldiers were accused of stealing the equivalent of about $400,000 from the bank in the western town of Man.

Some allegedly bought digital cameras and mobile phones with the money and sent them to their families in France.

They were part of a 4,000-strong French force sent to restore order in Ivory Coast after a rebellion began in 2002.

Six other French soldiers have been accused of stealing nearly $20,000 worth of CFA francs from another branch of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) in the rebel headquarters of Bouake last year.

They are expected to stand trial later this year.

'Betraying mission'

The robbery in rebel-held Man came as banks throughout the eight countries of the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA) were in the process of replacing a 1992 series of banknotes with more secure bills.

The branch where the theft was recorded had been put under extra surveillance following a series of thefts from Ivorian banks in 2003.

The prosecutor said on Tuesday that the men - aged between 20 and 35 - had besmirched the name of France on the international scene.

He said they betrayed "their mission" last summer.

Investigators said the soldiers had admitted to the majority of the charges against them.

Eight of the soldiers were sentenced to 12 months in jail, while the other four were handed sentences of between two and eight months.


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