A former American official with the US-led occupation authority in Iraq was sentenced Monday to nine years in prison and forced to forfeit 3.6 million dollars for his role in defrauding the authority.

Robert Stein, 52, pleaded guilty in February 2006 to charges of bribery, money laundering and conspiracy in relation to a plot to defraud the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) which took over running Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion.

Stein, who was arrested in the United States in November 2005 in the case, also pleaded guilty to illegal possession of machine guns in the case heard in the US district court in Washington DC.

The case involved a scheme during 2003-2005 involving several US army and reserve officers and Romania-based US businessman Philip Bloom to rig CPA bids worth 8.6 million dollars in Bloom’s favor. Bloom in turn gave the government officials cash, cars, jewelry, computers, airline tickets, liquor and jobs, according to the Department of Justice.

Stein, a CPA comptroller and funding officer for the CPA’s south central region in al-Hillah, Iraq, stole two million dollars in US currency during the scheme to give to Bloom to launder through foreign accounts to pay off the others, the Justice Department said in a statement.

The weapons charges against him involved buying illegal assault rifles, grenade launchers and silencers for their own use.

In March 2006 Bloom pleaded guilty to charges in the case, and is scheduled for sentencing on February 16.

“Robert Stein will now spend nine years in jail for exploiting his public position and accepting bribes for contracts during the rebuilding of Iraq,” Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher said in the statement.

The Coalition Provisional Authority handed over authority to a new Iraqi government and was dissolved in June 2004.

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse

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