Judges ruled on Monday that the suspects were guilty of taking some USD 14 million, by forging signatures, including the stamp of President Salva Kiir and the seal of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) Chief of Staff.
Suspects are found guilty for their ignorant abuse of power to get money.
“The alleged 16 suspects are found guilty for their ignorant abuse of power to get money,” said presiding Judge Lado Armino. According to their crimes, those on trial face sentences of between three and 20 years in prison, he added.
However, Defence Lawyer Agok Makur blamed the high court judge for a lack of transparency in the trial, adding that some of the suspects were innocent in his view. Suspects’ parents and relatives shed tears in the court room.
“Worldwide I have never seen the case or the verdicts were all suspects are found guilty. Some of them should have been released due to their innocence,” Lawyer Makur complained, adding that the ruling would be appealed.
Lawyer Rech Ring, who defended Mayen Wuol, one of the accused who worked as the Executive Director in the Office of the President, also expressed his doubts.
Peter Manut, a relative of a suspect, asked after the court case why South Sudan ignored many high-level cases of corruption, but was targeting this case.
This is the first ruling on corruption cases or the nature of ruling against corruption since South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011.
We need them to fight against any cases of corruption pending in judiciary.
Eleven months after gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, Kiir said that South Sudan had lost over USD 4 billion to corrupt politicians, but up to now no official has ever been prosecuted for corruption.
Juba resident Domenic Kenyi, who works as the motorcyclist next to judiciary, praised the bold example shown by high court, which he described as a wake-up call for justice in the country. “We need them to fight against any cases of corruption pending in judiciary,” he said.
South Sudan has several cases of corruption still awaiting trial – including allegations of 75 corrupt officials and the ‘Dura Saga’, in addition to the Letter of Credits (LCs), which lost the government millions of dollars.
The ‘Dura Saga’ refers to an incident in 2008, when South Sudan’s government paid nearly USD 1 million, according to a 2013 report by Voice of America, for cereals that were never delivered.
The Letters of Credits scandal refers to a scheme developing after the LC issuing authority changed hands in 2013 from the Central Bank to the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development – millions of dollars were allocated by various government agencies to companies.