* To spend one year behind bars, licence suspended

MALAGA, SPAIN — THE Spanish surgeon who carried out a tummy tuck operation on Mrs Stella Obasanjo, wife of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in 2005, was yesterday sentenced to one year imprisonment for manslaughter by a court in Malaga, Spain.

The court also suspended for three years the professional licence of the doctor simply identified by his initials, M.A, for allegedly messing up the operation. He was also fined 120,000 euros which he has to pay to Olumuyiwa Obasanjo, son of the late Stella.

The prosecution had asked for a two years imprisonment and suspension of his licence for five years. The surgeon had denied responsibility for the death, saying that the operation was carried out in conformity with medical practice.

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Stella Obasanjo died at the age of 59 in October 2005 shortly after undergoing the procedure at the Molding clinic in Marbella, the playground for Saudi princes and Hollywood stars located on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.

The court ruled that the tube which the doctor inserted to extract fat from the patient had been introduced by mistake in her abdominal cavity, causing five incisions to her liver and colon.

The blood loss and internal injuries she suffered “could have been treated without any problems” if “they had been detected in time”, it said, adding he had “failed in a serious and severely reckless way in his duty of care”.

A Spanish judge had earlier ordered forensic scientists to determine whether Stella Obasanjo died because a cosmetic surgery operation went wrong.

Stella was rushed to a hospital emergency department in the southern Spanish resort of Marbella after an operation, reportedly to reduce weight, at the town’s Molding Clinic.

The then Nigerian first lady was dead on arrival. Attempts to resuscitate her failed.

She was reported to have undergone an operation, though it was unclear exactly what she had wanted to change. She was however said to have had a “tummy tuck”.

Forensic scientists said they had been ordered to investigate whether her death had been caused by medical malpractice. The Molding Clinic is one of several centres to have opened in Marbella in recent years, offering “health tourism” visits to the glitzy Costa del Sol resort which is more usually associated with minor film stars and international crooks.

The clinic earlier released a statement saying the first lady “did not die while being operated on”. It said the “fundamental causes” of her death had not yet been determined.

However, the USP Hospital, where Mrs Obasanjo was sent after her recovery process began to go wrong, said she was “clinically dead” when she arrived.

Reports say that the woman had appeared to be in good health before she travelled to Spain. When she last appeared in public she had danced at a wedding, according to newspaper reports . Ex-President Obasanjo received news of her death as he was dealing with a national tragedy, following the crash of a Boeing 737 airliner that killed all 117 people aboard.

Mrs Obasanjo became known around the world after she campaigned for the release of her husband, a former army general, when he was jailed in the mid-1990s for allegedly plotting a coup. She received a number of human rights awards.

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