South Sudan MPs suspend officials in corruption probe

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir attends the opening of the second session of the National Legislative Assembly of South Sudan in Juba, 11 June 2012 President Salva Kiir's letter had offered an amnesty to anyone returning money

South Sudan's parliament has voted to suspend at least 75 senior officials accused of massive corruption.

President Salva Kiir sent a letter to the current and ex-government employees, asking them to return at least $4bn (£2.6bn) of stolen money.

About $60m has been recovered since the letters were sent out last month, the BBC was told last week.

South Sudan became independent last July, but analysts say corruption is already one of its biggest problems.

The new nation is also desperately in need of funds after its oil production, which accounts for 98% of revenue, was shut down in an argument with Sudan.

'Betrayed ideals'

The MPs said the 75 individuals who had received the president's letter would be suspended until they were convicted or acquitted.

The BBC's James Copnall, reporting from Sudan's capital, Khartoum, says their identities have not yet been made public.

But two members of parliament, Awut Deng and Lual Deng, both came forward to say they had received the letter.

Both said they welcomed the opportunity to clear their names.

Lual Deng, a federal minister before South Sudan seceded from Sudan, told the BBC he had received a general letter and wanted the president's office to provide specific accusations to which he could respond.

He also said as he had served in Khartoum, not Juba, he did not see how he could have stolen South Sudanese money.

In his letter, President Kiir said that those who had taken money had betrayed the ideals for which they had fought.

Our reporter says almost all of South Sudan's leaders are former rebels who fought Khartoum for many years during the civil war which ended in 2005.

There is growing concern about the impact and scale of corruption in a poor country facing numerous challenges, he says.

South Sudan is one of Africa's least developed countries, with few paved roads and poor health and educational outcomes.

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