Senegal leader Wade denies IMF gift was a bribe

Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade has admitted giving a "farewell gift" of some 133,000 euros to the International Monetary Fund's outgoing agent in the country, but denies any influence-peddling.


AFP - Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade said Tuesday it was "nonsense" to see a gift of 133,000 euros given to a departing International Monetary Fund agent as corruption.

An IMF report said its regional agent Alex Segura was given the money as he left his three-year tenure as the body's representative in the west African country.

The incident on September 25 provoked a scandal in Dakar, but Wade said Tuesday there was no question of corruption and the large sum given to Segura came about as a mistake on the part of an aide.

The 83-year-old Senegalese leader refused to answer questions on the incident at a news conference, but issued a statement giving his account of events.

"The aide-de-camp asked the president of the republic if he should give him (Segura) something, in keeping with custom. The president of the republic replied 'yes' without saying what the sum should be, because there was a custom. The aide-de-camp made a mistake over the amount and realised his mistake later," Wade said in the statement.

According to the Fund, Wade handed Segura the gift after a farewell dinner which the IMF agent said he later discovered was a large sum of money -- 100,000 euros and 50,000 dollars (33,000 euros).

"It's nonsense to talk about corruption with someone who is leaving for good without the least chance of meeting you again," Wade said in his statement.

"Mr Segura was not a friend of Senegal. He was very often tough in his judgments. There was no reason to give him a huge gift.

"But according to our traditions, when someone who has stayed with you a long time leaves, you give him a gift, either in kind or as a small sum of money to allow him to buy souvenirs for his family."

The money has since been returned to Senegalese authorities and Wade "acknowledged that the amount that was provided was a mistake," the IMF said.

The Senegalese opposition denounced the incident as "attempted corruption" and the country's prime minister Monday leapt to the defence of Wade, one of Africa's high-profile leaders who has ruled Senegal since 2000 and has spoken out against graft.

In December the IMF chided Senegal for lapses in following a plan for economic reforms and at the same time pledged 75.6 million dollars (56.2 million euros) in aid to help the country face the effects of the economic crisis.

Segura, a Spanish national now based in Washington, has made no comments on the matter since the scandal broke.

Still, Senegalese commentators have questioned why he accepted the "gift" and left the country with the package of cash.

In explaining Segura's actions, the IMF said he was worried about missing his flight and was concerned about finding a place to stash the cash safely in Senegal.

Upon arriving at his destination, Barcelona, Segura contacted IMF headquarters which began making arrangements to return the cash.

Wade also has not commented publicly on the incident. His followers see him as the father of change after he broke Senegal's 40-year-long uninterrupted socialist rule.

But opponents have accused him of grooming a successor, possibly his son, although the octogenarian recently announced he wants to run for a third term in 2012.


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