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Last Updated: Monday, 8 December, 2003, 02:46 GMT
Nicaragua's former leader jailed
Arnoldo Aleman
The former president faced a range of corruption charges
Former Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Aleman has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for corruption.

Aleman was found guilty on charges including money-laundering, fraud, embezzlement and electoral crimes, judicial officials said.

The former Nicaraguan leader, who ruled the nation from 1997 to 2002, was arrested in December last year.

He was accused of helping to divert nearly $100m of state funds into his party's election campaign.

Egyptian carpets

The case against him was part of an anti-corruption campaign by Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos.

Last month a judge released Aleman, 57, from jail and put him under house arrest at his ranch at El Chile south of Managua on health grounds.

Aleman suffers from diabetes, hypertension and heart problems and is expected to remain there to serve his sentence.

Aleman, known as El Gordo or the Fat Man for his huge physical bulk and vast wealth, once spent $10,000 on two nights in Paris, bought Egyptian carpets worth more than $22,000 and spent thousands on jewellery, hotels and bar bills.

Poor nation

He became leader of Nicaragua's National Assembly in 2002 when his presidential term finished, a post which guaranteed him immunity from prosecution.

But when state auditors found millions of dollars of stolen state assets in bank accounts around the world, a wave of public revulsion led to the parliament lifting his immunity.

He was arrested along with several members of his family and a number of former ministers.

As well as the jail sentence, he was fined $10m and forbidden from standing for office for the length of his sentence.

Nicaragua is one of Latin America's poorest countries, with around half the population living on less than a dollar a day.

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Country profile: Nicaragua
10 Jul 03  |  Country profiles

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