DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - A Tanzanian court sentenced two former ministers to three years in jail on Monday over corruption charges related to the award of a gold audit tender, according to court documents.
The convictions of former Finance Minister Basil Mramba and former Energy and Minerals Minister Daniel Yona represent two of the most high-profile convictions in the government's anti-graft drive. Lawyers said the ex-ministers would appeal.
Businesses have long complained that graft is a major reason for the high cost of doing business in the east African nation.
Former Finance Ministry permanent secretary Gray Mgonja, who was jointly charged with the former ministers, was acquitted by the Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court in Dar es Salaam.
Court documents seen by Reuters showed the ex-ministers were accused of abusing their authority in 2002 by "arbitrarily" awarding a contract to audit gold production from Tanzania, Africa's fourth biggest producer.
The court also convicted Mramba, 75, and Yona, 76, of illegally extending an audit contract for two years after its expiry in 2005, disregarding a team set up to review the deal.
Mramba was also convicted of using his position as finance minister to unlawfully exempt a local subsidiary of the auditor of paying 11.75 billion Tanzanian shillings ($5.3 million) in government taxes.
($1 = 2,220.0000 Tanzanian shillings)
(Reporting by Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala; Editing by Edmund Blair and Ralph Boulton)