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Côte d'Ivoire - from our correspondent

Corruption probe into Côte d'Ivoire minister

Reuters

Côte d'Ivoire's president has called for an official investigation into corruption allegations against one of his own ministers. President Laurent Gbagbo asked a state prosecutor on Sunday to look into whether Interior Minister Désiré Tagro has been skimming state funds and money intended for toxic waste victims into his personal account.

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The minister is also accused of peddling influence to get members of his ethnic group into the national police academy.

President Laurent Gbagbo has asked a state prosecutor Monday to investigate whether money meant for victims of Trafigura toxic waste ended up in Tagro's pocket.

Tagro, who belongs to Gbagbo's FPI party, was accused earlier this month by the president of the National Assembly of peddling influence to get members of his ethnic group into the prestigious National Police School.

While the entrance exams are notoriously corrupt, ethnic bias is perceived as far worse than the typical bribes, because it could ignite racial tensions in this country that boasts 60 ethnicities.

The press has picked up on these accusations and claims to have stumbled upon evidence that shows Tagro may be skimming state funds as well.

They claim that Tagro may have helped himself to some of the almost 50 million dollars paid out by Dutch oil-trading firm Trafigura to victims of a 2006 toxic waste spill in Abidjan.

Some of the lucrative 100-million-dollar contract to French company Sagem, to create new ID cards and draw up voter lists may have also been pilfered, they say.

While the press here is quick to accuse, the fact that the president is throwing his weight behind the charges means that they have to be taken seriously.

For the time being, Tagro has not responded to the accusations.

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