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12 Kosovo officials accused of paying phony war veterans

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Prosecutors in Kosovo are accusing 12 government officials of misusing public money by paying veterans benefits to people they knew hadn’t fought for the country.

The national prosecutor’s office alleged in a statement issued Friday the officials illegally paid 68 million euros ($79 million) to people who falsely claimed to be war veterans.

Kosovo, one of Europe’s poorest countries, offers benefits to former fighters in its 1998-1999 war for independence from Serbia. Thousands are believed to have claimed the funds improperly.

The prosecutor’s office is proposing the government suspend the payments while its case proceeds.

The statement didn’t name the officials. The charge of misusing public funds carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. More than 100 countries recognize it as an independent republic.