Sierra Leone official pleads innocent to diamond smuggling

A former Sierra Leone Cabinet minister pleaded innocent on Aug. 8 to charges of smuggling this war-ruined West African nation’s diamonds, the Associated Press reported.

Momoh Pujeh, with wife Mary Pujeh, was accused of being in illegal posession of more than 638 carats of diamonds. His wife also pleaded innocent during the couple’s appearance in a court in Freetown, the capital, the AP reported.

Momoh Pujeh was suspended as Sierra Leone’s transport and communications minister last year after he and his wife were arrested over allegations of illicit diamond mining in the eastern Kenema region. It was not clear when their next court hearing would be, the AP reported. Rebels fought a bloody 10-year war against Sierra Leone’s government to win power and control of the country’s diamond mines. The war was declared over in January, and the government is trying to regain oversight of the diamond business nationwide.

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