South Sudan's High Court Monday sentenced at least 16 former officials, including top presidential aides, to life in prison for stealing over $14 million and 30 million South Sudanese pounds ($4.93 million) from the fledgling nation.
President Salva Kiir in June 2015 issued an administrative order suspending his top aides, accusing them of corruption, including forging his signature, and abuse of powers.
"According to the final court hearing today, the officials were found guilty of committing gross crimes by forging signatures including that of President Salva Kiir, the army chief of staff, and other officials as well as stealing $14 million," Agok Makura, a defense lawyer for the convicted officials, told Anadolu Agency.
Among the 16 convicts are a former presidential chief administrator, a national security officer attached to the presidency, the controller of accounts at the presidency, four Kenyans, and Central Bank employees.
The court said it has determined that the offenses were committed during the two years of civil war (2013-2015) and the stolen money was in offshore accounts.
Makura pledged to file appeals for some of his clients.
Eleven months after gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, Kiir said that South Sudan had lost over $4 billion to corrupt politicians, but up to now no official has ever been prosecuted for corruption.