PARIS (AP) — A court in the Indian Ocean island of Comoros sentenced former President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi on Monday to life in prison for illegally selling the country’s passports, according to local media reports.

The Court for State Security in the capital Moroni also ordered the confiscation of Sambi’s assets. It handed down sentences of up to 20 years in prison for other officials convicted in the scheme.

According to video of the verdict on local news website Habariza Comores, the presiding judge said Sambi “abused his presidential prerogatives to allow the installation of a mafia-like system for the illegal sale of Comoros passports.”

Sambi was president of the archipelago of less than 1 million people from 2006-2011.

Local media said the passports were sold to stateless people in Gulf countries.

According to Radio France Internationale, prosecutors accused Sambi of embezzling 1.8 billion euros ($1.87 billion) as part of the scheme — more than the country’s annual GDP.

RFI quoted defense lawyer Mahamadou Ahamada as saying there was no proof of embezzlement, saying the trial was politically driven.

Sambi is a political rival of President Azali Assoumani.


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