US special agents arrest top SA scientist for ‘laundering HIV/Aids funds’
Claire Keeton | 2017-02-09 12:40:24.0
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South African HIV consultant Dr Eugene Sickle was arrested in the US on Wednesday for money laundering linked to US funding for HIV/Aids programmes.
“Special agents apprehended Dr Sickle in Washington‚ DC‚ for offences committed in relation to USAID-supported HIV/Aids programmes in South Africa‚” the US Office of the Inspector General said in a press release.
The Office of the Inspector General monitors US-funded programmes overseas which fall under the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Sickle resigned in May last year from the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (WRHI)‚ where he served as the deputy executive director: strategy and development.
IN 2012‚ USAID awarded three cooperative agreements worth nearly $77-million (about R1-billion) to the institute to strengthen treatment programmes for HIV/Aids patients and support the government in its plans to treat at-risk populations.
“Sickle resigned from his position last year following the discovery of his potential involvement in the submission of fraudulent documents to WRHI‚” the press release said.
Sickle graduated in 1996 with a PhD in chemistry from UCT‚ according to his LinkedIn profile. He joined the Wits institute in June 2009 as the national director of programmes‚ the profile states. He describes himself as “self-employed”.
USAID staff reported Sickle’s resignation and evidence of questionable transactions to the Office of the Inspector General‚ which opened an investigation.
USAID Inspector-General Ann Calvaresi Barr said: “Any fraud in US foreign assistance programmes is unacceptable‚ but fraud in global health programs is all the more troubling.”
The Office of the Inspector General made the arrest with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations directorate.
The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will prosecute the case.
The University of the Witwatersrand has not yet responded to the latest development.
– TMG Digital/TimesLIVE