Senegal Admits Giving IMF Official a $200,000 Gift
Senegal Admits Giving IMF Official a $200,000 Gift

Senegal's government has admitted it gave money to an International Monetary Fund official leaving the country in late September as what it called a "traditional African farewell gift".  The IMF has returned the money, and Senegal has denied allegations of corruption.  

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Senegal has confirmed it gave almost $200,000 to a departing IMF official last month, after previously denying the incident.

In a statement released Monday, the IMF said its agent Alex Segura was given 100,000 euros and $50,000 as a "farewell present" after a dinner with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade the evening of Segura's departure from the country.  Segura had spent three-years as the IMF resident representative in Senegal.

According to the IMF statement, Segura did not realize the gift was a large sum of money until he was about to leave for Spain. 

Concerned about missing his flight and unsure of a safe place to leave the money in Senegal, the IMF said Segura took it with him on his flights to Paris and Barcelona, his final destination. Upon arrival, Segura turned the money over to the IMF, who said the money was then given to the Senegalese ambassador in Spain on October 6th via a security company.

In a written statement released Tuesday, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade admitted he authorized the gift without specifying an amount.  Mr. Wade said his aide-de-camp then made a mistake about the sum.

At a news conference Tuesday in Dakar, the president refused to respond to questions about the incident, which has been dubbed "Seguragate" by local media.

Mr. Wade said he would not respond to this question.  He says the government has already issued a statement that is being distributed, which is its last word on this issue.

In that written statement, Mr. Wade called allegations of corruption "nonsense."  He said that according to African tradition, it is normal to give someone leaving your country after a long stay a modest sum of money so he can buy souvenirs for his family.

During his three-year tenure as an IMF official in Dakar, Segura was known to be critical of Senegal's financial processes, a relationship acknowledged by Mr. Wade who opened his written statement Tuesday by saying "Segura was not a friend of Senegal ...   There was no reason to give him a substantial gift."

Though the government has said the money can not be defined as corruption since Segura was leaving the country definitively, the incident has provoked outrage in Senegal and demands of an independent investigation.  Members of the opposition have denounced it as attempted corruption.

Segura, who is now based in Washington, has not commented on the incident.