Senegal mayor says state 'knew' about secret slush fund

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Dakar - Dakar's mayor on Wednesday accused the Senegalese state of full knowledge of a slush fund held outside official accounts as he defended himself against embezzlement accusations in a high-profile corruption trial.

Khalifa Sall is accused with seven others of misappropriating 1.83 billion CFA francs ($3.3 million) - a charge he denies and which backers say is to prevent him from running for president.

"If the state wasn't part of it, it wouldn't have worked. It was the state that wanted it that way," Sall, 62, told a courtroom in the capital.

Since his trial resumed this week, the court has heard evidence of a system of fake receipts written for rice and millet supplies, the money from which was used for "political purposes" by Sall.

"If this political fund, as you call it, did not need to be justified, why try to justify it with invoices and receipts?" a state representative asked during Wednesday's proceedings.

Sall said on Monday his trial was "political" and fuelled by his refusal to make deals with the government, adding that the money was used for spending on sensitive issues such as security.

Mayor Sall, a leading opponent of President Macky Sall - no relation - was seen as a serious contender for 2019 elections, when the president is also seeking a second term.

Khalifa Sall was elected to Senegal's national assembly from prison in July, but his parliamentary immunity was lifted last month to pave the way for his trial.

His long pre-trial detention and the allegations of political machinations behind his arrest have perturbed the diplomatic community in a nation with strong democratic institutions.

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