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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 July, 2005, 23:12 GMT 00:12 UK
Jail for Nigerian bank fraudster
A handful of dollars
Following an investigation most of the funds have been recovered
A court in Nigeria has sentenced a woman to two and a half years in prison for her part in the country's biggest ever international fraud case.

Amaka Anajemba admitted helping her late husband to persuade an employee of a Brazilian bank to transfer millions of dollars into overseas accounts.

Banco Noroeste lost $242m through the latter half of the 1990s.

The court ordered Anajemba to surrender her houses in Nigeria, the US, UK and Switzerland to help repay the money.

Massive investigation

Anajemba is one of three suspects - the trial of the two other defendants has been adjourned until September.

She was convicted of convincing a senior official at Banco Noroeste, based in Sao Paulo, to siphon off the hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for a promised $13m kickback on a fictitious contract for an airport in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

The prosecution case was built up after an international investigation involving the authorities of more than a dozen countries.

The fraud was discovered in 1998 when Banco Noroeste was bought by a Spanish bank.

The Brazilian bank official, the company's head of international operations, was arrested three years ago during a trip to the US and extradited to Switzerland, where he was jailed for more than a year.

Widespread corruption

Most of the funds have since been recovered.

The judgement has been greeted enthusiastically by Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission which described it as a landmark achievement.

The BBC's Anna Borzello in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos says that the country is notorious for its advance fee frauds.

Known as four-one-nines after the Nigerian criminal code prohibiting such practices, greedy or gullible investors are invited to hand over money or bank account details on the promise of large future payments, which never arrive.

In its most common form unsolicited e-mails offer the recipient a share of the wealth of dead African dictators.

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