Minister cleared in graft probe

2010-07-19 21:12

Abidjan - An investigation into possible corruption has cleared Ivory Coast's Interior Minister Desire Tagro, a close aide of President Laurent Gbagbo, the public prosecutor's office said on Monday.

Gbagbo ordered the probe into suspected nepotism and embezzlement last month to shed light on accusations against Tagro, made by the head of the national assembly Mamadou Koulibaly and various media at the start of June.

Tagro had been accused of favouring people from his region for places at a police training school and embezzling money set aside for the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

The inquiry concluded that no bargaining was involved in applications for the school as alleged by Koulibaly, who is also close to the president, public prosecutor Mamadou Diakite told the press.

The inquiry had also looked into accusations that Tagro embezzled money paid to the state by the company Trafigura as compensation for the victims of toxic waste dumped in Abidjan in 2006.

But prosecutors also cleared the minister of any wrongdoing in this case.

"The interior minister can (also) not be accused of having received 10 billion CFA francs (€15m) which were allegedly given to him as a commission by Sagem Securite", a French company providing voting machines, said Diakite.

These allegations had been reported by the local press.

Prime Minister Guillaume Soro had also been named in the allegations but his office completely rejected any link.

Ivorian opposition parties charged that Gbagbo was seeking to sabotage the electoral process by ordering the corruption probe.

Elections have been postponed seven times since Gbagbo's mandate ran out in 2005 as the country has slowly worked towards overcoming an effective split in two following a failed coup attempt in 2002.

A 2008 peace deal made the rebel New Force (FN) leader Soro prime minister but disputes over disarmament and the drafting of voter lists have led to repeated delays in the election.

The opposition is calling for the voter lists to be finalised by the end of July so the presidential election may be held in August.