African general pleads guilty to smuggling cash into the US

Alexandria - An African general who briefly served as the president of Guinea pleaded guilty Tuesday to smuggling tens of thousands of dollars in cash into the US.

Sekouba Konate, aged 51, had been scheduled to go on trial Tuesday in US District Court in Alexandria on charges of bulk cash smuggling and making false statements. Instead, he entered a guilty plea that could result in a prison sentence of up to five years when he is sentenced in February.

Prosecutors say Konate tried to sneak more than $64 000 in cash into the US on a 2013 flight from Ethiopia to Dulles International Airport. Konate had told Customs agents he was carrying less than $10 000 cash.

Konate, who has family in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area and owns property in the state, is general commander of the Security Forces of the African Union, a military force comprising 54 member nations. In 2010, he served as a transitional president of Guinea following a military coup.

Konate's lawyer, David Benowitz, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Tuesday.

Konate testified at a pretrial hearing that he did not understand the Customs process because of language barriers.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent testified at that hearing that they developed suspicions about Konate because of his property purchases in North Carolina and because they had received information about possible corruption involving Konate when he served as Guinea's president.

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