Burundi President Demands $70 Million Be Returned to Government

Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza gave a two-month deadline for the return of 111 billion francs ($71.3 million) he said had been stolen or embezzled from the East African nation’s government.

At least 81 billion francs of the total should be paid back by companies or officials who were given tax exemptions to import goods to build infrastructure and instead sold on the materials, Nkurunziza said late Tuesday on state television. He said the remaining sum had been embezzled by officials representing the government in companies in which it owns shares.

Some of these officials have doubled their salaries in less than four months, according to Nkurunziza. “They all have two months to bring back what they have stolen,” he said.

Landlocked Burundi has been hit by unrest that’s killed more than 470 people since Nkurunziza decided in April 2015 to stand for re-election, a move his opponents said was unconstitutional. The country is a member of the East African Community, a six-nation bloc with a combined gross domestic product of more than $147.5 billion, and a coffee-exporter.

The first nine months of Burundi’s political crisis spurred an economic contraction, hitting tax collection, tourism and industrial activity, the country’s revenue authority said in February. The body said its March revenue collection exceeded its target.

Burundi’s general prosecution last year said protests and a failed coup in May had cost the country more than 50 billion francs.

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