African military leader pleads guilty in U.S. to cash smuggling


Sekouba Konate, an African general who served as Guinea’s transitional president for a year after a military coup, pleaded guilty to U.S. charges on Tuesday that he smuggled thousands of dollars into the United States.

Konate, 51, was indicted in May and faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced on Feb. 19, the U.S. Justice Department said.

His lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

Known in Guinea as “El Tigre” for his ferocity in battle, Konate served as interim president of the West African country in 2010. From December 2010, Konate served as general commander of the security forces of the 54-country African Union, court documents said.

Prosecutors said that in June 2013, Konate flew into Washington Dulles International Airport from Ethiopia and proceeded through customs illegally carrying $64,770 in U.S. currency.

Konate did not declare the cash, much of which was hidden in his luggage, and instead claimed to be carrying $10,000 or less, prosecutors said.

Konate pleaded guilty in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, to charges that he engaged in bulk cash smuggling and made false statements.

According to a statement of facts he signed as part of his plea, during the questioning, Konate called the searches improper given his status as the former president of Guinea and commanding general of the African Union forces.

As part of his plea agreement, the parties agreed that$61,770 was properly seized and that $3,000 would be given back to Konate as “humanitarian aid.”