Sierra Leone official arrested

A top government official in Sierra Leone was arrested with his wife Thursday on accusations they smuggled diamonds out of the West African nation, officials said.

Momoh Pujeh, the minister of transport and communications, and his wife, Mary, are accused of illicit diamond mining in the eastern Kenema region, according to a statement released by Anti-Corruption Commissioner Valentine Collier, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The statement said Pujeh was alleged to be in possession of “a large quantity” of diamonds. It did not specify the amount.

“It is further alleged that these diamonds have been sold abroad illegally, thereby depriving the government and people of Sierra Leone of much needed revenue,” the statement said.

Officials at the presidency said the government would wait for further details before deciding whether to dismiss the minister, the AP reported.

Sierra Leone has been ravaged by 10 years of civil war, fought chiefly to gain control of the government and the country’s lucrative diamond fields.

Rebels from the Revolutionary United Front have raped, maimed and killed tens of thousands of civilians. Under pressure from forces of the United Nations, Britain, and Guinea, they signed a cease-fire late last year and started disarming.

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