Page last updated at 11:47 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Award for Liberian bribe 'hero'

President Sirleaf and Richard Karyea [Photo courtesy of Liberian Government]
Mr Karyea has been named Civil Servant of the Year 2008

An airport customs officer in Liberia has been honoured by the West African country's president for refusing a bribe from a drug trafficker.

Richard Karyea was offered $20,000 (14,000) to look the other way by a Nigerian smuggler trying to bring cocaine in to Liberia two years ago.

The sum was more than 1,300 times his $15 (10) monthly salary but he refused and handed the man over to the police.

He was named Civil Servant of the Year 2008 and given a $1,000 (700) prize.

Mr Karyea was honoured by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf at a civil service awards ceremony in the capital Monrovia.

DVD player

After refusing the bribe in 2006, Mr Karyea was made redundant - he suspects his colleagues arranged to get rid of him.

If it took me 50 years to earn that money, I'd want my conscience, I will always want my conscience
Richard Karyea
Airport security officer

But he has gone on to bigger and better things by landing a job as deputy chief examiner at the ministry of finance.

"It wasn't difficult to turn down the money," Mr Karyea told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

"If it took me 50 years to earn that money, I'd want my conscience. I will always want my conscience."

Mr Karyea said the drugs were hidden in a DVD player.

He called the owner of the package into his office and told him he was going to open it up.

"He grabbed my hand and said 'Ah! Oga-sir! Please don't'", said Mr Karyea.

But he suspects not all the officials are so honest at Roberts International Airport just outside Monrovia.

Later he saw the man boarding a plane to go back to Nigeria.

Even though it would have taken him many years to earn the same amount as the bribe he was offered, Mr Karyea is happy.

"Right now I'm rejoicing," he said.

West Africa has become a major waypoint for South American smugglers taking cocaine into Europe.

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