Mali lost $261 million to graft in ex-leader's last years: audits

Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure delivers a speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg September 7, 2010.REUTERS/Jean-Marc Loos

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Mali lost more than 152 billion CFA francs ($261 million) to fraud and mismanagement in the two years before ex-president Amadou Toumani Toure was toppled in a 2012 army coup, according to audits released by the authorities that replaced him.

Soldiers in the West African nation ousted Toure on March 22, 2012, angry at his handling of a separatist rebellion by Tuareg fighters in the north.

The auditor-general's reports for 2010 and 2011 said forged documents were used to justify spending, regulations were disregarded, unjustified expense claims were filed and public procurement was marred by irregularities.

The reports were submitted on Monday to President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who will now decide whether to pursue legal action against those believed to have been involved.

They were made publicly available late on Wednesday and will be posted on the auditor-general's website from May 11.

The reports do not name Taure or any other individuals as being personally responsible for corruption, and instead give a breakdown of data by ministry and government agency.

The audit of 2010 would normally have been released last year, but an official told Reuters it had been delayed amid the political turmoil that followed Toure's ouster.

The power vacuum in the southern capital Bamako that followed Toure's overthrow allowed the separatist rebels and their Islamist allies, some of them linked to al Qaeda, to seize the northern two-thirds of Mali.

A French-led military intervention drove back the Islamists a year later, and Mali held elections in late 2013 that voted in Keita as president.

Much of the north is still plagued by sporadic attacks. Regular violations of a ceasefire between the government and the separatist rebels in recent weeks threaten to sink a U.N.-backed peace deal.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Andrew Heavens)