U.S. prosecutors have charged a Burkina Faso man with fraud for his alleged role in a $12 million scheme to acquire and distribute faulty mosquito nets in his home country.
Prosecutors in New York state said Friday that Malamine Ouedraogo had defrauded the U.S. Agency for International Development, along with the Swiss-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
According to the indictment, Ouedraogo promised to use funds from the two organizations in 2010 to buy more than 2 million mosquito nets treated with insecticide from a U.N.-recommended company in Thailand. Instead, prosecutors said, he bought the nets at a much lower cost from a supplier in China; the nets contained little or no insecticide and were packaged to look as if they had come from Thailand.
Prosecutors said nets not treated with insecticide are substantially less effective in preventing malaria because they fail to repel mosquitos and can develop small holes over time that the mosquitoes can penetrate.
Ouedraogo, 33, was charged with one count of wire fraud and faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted. He remains at large.
Malaria infects 200 million people worldwide every year and kills nearly 600,000, most of them children under age 5 in Africa.
There are drug treatments, but the most effective tools for preventing malaria are the insecticide-treated bed nets, which ward off the mosquitos that carry the disease.