NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Burkina Faso man has been criminally charged by U.S. prosecutors in New York over an alleged $12.2 million fraud in which he put millions of people in his home country at risk for malaria by distributing bogus mosquito nets.
Malamine Ouedraogo, 33, was accused on Friday by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of defrauding the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Geneva, Switzerland, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which both provide financing to promote global health.
According to an unsealed indictment, Ouedraogo had promised in 2010 to use funds from those entities to buy more than 2 million nets treated with a long-term insecticide, and made by a Thailand company recommended by the World Health Organization.
Instead, nearly all the nets that Ouedraogo bought and sent to Burkina Faso were made by an unnamed Chinese company and contained little or no insecticide, according to the indictment.
These nets cost as little as 50 cents each, while the nets that the defendant promised to buy cost more than $5 each, the indictment added.
Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in western Africa, north of Ghana. In 2013, roughly 3.77 million malaria cases and 6,294 deaths were reported there, out of a population of 16.9 million, WHO data show.
Ouedraogo was charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum 20-year prison term.
He remains at large, and his whereabouts could not immediately be determined.
The permanent mission of Burkina Faso to the United Nations did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Bharara had no immediate comment.
The case is U.S. v. Ouedraogo, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-cr-00770.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Lisa Shumaker