December 21, 2009 / 6:29 PM / 10 years ago

Sierra Leone suspends tax chief over corruption

FREETOWN (Reuters) - Sierra Leone’s top tax collector has been suspended in a corruption investigation, authorities said on Monday in the poor West African country which has been trying to promote itself to investors.

“Commissioner General Allieu Sesay was invited by the Anti-Corruption Commission to explain financial irregularities as head of the National Revenue Commission,” Abdul-Tejan Cole, Commissioner for the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), said in announcing the suspension.

Sesay, in charge of the commission for a year, denied wrongdoing and in a statement said: “I have been doing my job effectively without involving myself in the finances of the authority.”

Sierra Leone emerged from a civil war in 2002 in which 50,000 people died. The suspension follows a string of anti-corruption cases since President Ernest Bai Koroma came to power in 2007.

Sierra Leone’s image has improved, with the country moving up 12 places in the index of anti-corruption efforts by Berlin-based governance watchdog Transparency International. The country stood in 146th position out of 180 in 2009, compared to 158th position last year.

Set to record economic growth of around four percent this year, Sierra Leone discovered oil in September and is desperate to avoid the “resource curse” that has led to corruption and bloodshed in other African countries.

The Anti-Corruption office has also made clear it is prepared to charge foreigners accused of taking bribes.

Reporting by Christo Johnson; writing by Arjun Chaudhuri; editing by Mark John and Michael Roddy

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