A FEDERAL grand jury has charged Ray Nagin, the former mayor of New Orleans who denounced the US government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, with 21 counts of public corruption.
The charges include six counts of bribery, nine counts of wire fraud, four counts of filing false tax returns and one count each of conspiracy and money laundering. He is also accused of receiving thousands of dollars in kickbacks for city services.
“Nagin used his public office and his official capacity to provide favourable treatment that benefited the business and financial interests of individuals providing him with bribery or kickback pay-offs in the form of cheques, cash, granite inventory, wire transfers, personal services and free travel,” the indictment said.
The charges followed months of investigation by federal prosecutors, who reached agreements with several former associates of Nagin to provide evidence against him.
Democrat Nagin, 56, served as mayor of the Louisiana city from 2002-2010 and stirred national controversy after the hurricane broke flood walls and inundated most of the city, killing 1,500 people and wrecking tens of thousands of homes.
In the aftermath of the storm, Nagin told federal officials to “get off your asses” as thousands of people who had been forced from their homes waited for help.
“This is, if true, a betrayal of the public trust that really started before Katrina,” said Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, an organisation dedicated to fighting corruption in Louisiana.
“Is it any wonder that New Orleans is still struggling to recover from the catastrophic effects of that storm if the person that was supposed to be championing the city’s recovery was more interested in lining his own pockets?” he said.
Nagin’s attorney, Robert Jenkins, could not be reached to comment on the charges.