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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 October 2006, 08:23 GMT 09:23 UK
South Africa MPs guilty of fraud
Parliament
MPs are given travel vouchers to fly to parliament in Cape Town
Fourteen current and former South African MPs have pleaded guilty to fraud in one of the biggest corruption scandals since the end of apartheid.

The MPs, mostly from the ruling African National Congress, admitted hiring expensive cars and booking into luxury hotels at taxpayers' expense.

After their plea bargains they have escaped jail, with either fines or suspended prison sentences.

Five more MPs are expected to appear in court shortly on corruption charges.

Correspondents say some of these may also conclude plea bargains.

It is not clear whether the convicted serving MPs will have to resign from parliament.

Deterrent

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said it welcomed the sentences, saying they were "commensurate with the crimes committed" and would serve as a deterrent to others.

Last year, five MPs were given similar punishments.

More than 20 politicians altogether have been accused of colluding with travel agents to inflate the price of their travel to pay for luxury extras.

The anti-corruption Scorpions police unit say they falsified claims of up to $3m in travel expenses.

Politicians regularly have to travel from their constituencies throughout the country to parliament in Cape Town.

For this they are given travel vouchers for economy class flights.

But it is alleged that these travel arrangements were abused, with politicians using the vouchers for example to fly friends and relatives around South Africa.


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