PARIS - A French court on Wednesday sentenced in absentia former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete to three years in prison and a fine of 300,000 euros for money laundering.

The Paris criminal court also issued an arrest warrant for Etete, who served as oil minister under Sani Abacha from 1995 to 1998, and is currently living in Britain.

Etete was convicted of using 15 million euros in funds obtained fraudulently to purchase properties in 1999 and 2000 including a chateau in northwest France, a Paris apartment and a luxury villa in the chic Paris suburb of Neuilly.

Etete's accomplice, French businessman Richard Granier-Defferre, was convicted of complicity and sentenced to 12 months in jail and a fine of 150,000 euros.

The French court ordered Etete to pay 150,000 euros to Nigeria in compensation for moral prejudice and 20,000 euros in fees.

During the brief trial in September, Etete's lawyer said his client had acquired the properties through legal investment companies.

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