DAKAR (AFP) – The son of Senegal’s former leader Abdoulaye Wade was in jail Thursday after being charged with corruption over the amassing of a fortune valued at more than $1 billion, a ministry of justice source said.
Karim Wade, who held a number of cabinet posts during his father’s presidency, was sent to Dakar’s main prison under heavy police escort just before midnight, witnesses said, after he was charged with “illicit enrichment”.
Seven alleged accomplices also placed on remand include a Senegalese businessman, a former head of airport operator Aeroports du Senegal and two officials from airport ground handling company Aviation Handling Services (AHS), the ministry source told AFP.
They have been charged with “complicity in illicit enrichment”, along with Wade’s former communications adviser and two other men.
Wade is alleged to have acquired companies and real estate by corrupt means, including land across Dakar, the local subsidiary of Dubai Ports World, which runs the port container terminal in Senegal’s capital, and a fleet of luxury cars.
He is also said to be the owner of AHS and seven subsidiaries operating mainly in west and central Africa, one of which runs Equatorial Guinea’s Malabo airport, as well as a number of media and finance firms.
The 44-year-old’s arrest on Monday came just hours after his legal team filed documents in response to an order by Senegal’s anti-corruption court to explain the provenance of assets allegedly worth over $1.4 billion (1.07 billion euros).
Chief anti-corruption prosecutor Alioune Ndao said he had ordered Wade’s detention after deciding he was not satisfied with the “relevance” of the 2,000-page dossier.
Under Senegalese law, investigators will have a maximum of six months to investigate Wade, who denies corruption and disputes ownership of many of the assets attributed to him.
He will then have to by freed or stand trial, although he could remain on remand throughout what could be a lengthy hearing.
Court officials have publicly set out the case against the former minister, detailing a huge operation involving the movement of money through front organisations in tax havens across the world.
“This is real financial engineering that has been exposed, with frontmen and complex structures. We discovered key sectors of the economy held by offshore companies based in Panama, the British Virgin Islands and Luxembourg,” said prosecutor Antoine Diome.
The former ruling Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) accuses the regime of Macky Sall, who defeated Wade’s father in presidential elections last year, of conducting a “witch hunt” against the PDS hierarchy since it came to power.
“It’s unfortunate that a decision of this nature is being treated as a political issue,” said PDS spokesman Babacar Gaye.
Sall launched a number of audits into the finances of political rivals shortly after his inauguration and several leaders of the 2000-2012 Wade regime have been repeatedly questioned by police and judges.
Karim Wade is also under investigation in France following a complaint by the Senegalese government over the alleged embezzlement of public funds, misuse of corporate assets and corruption, according to a judicial source.
After he was last questioned by police in November, he was banned from leaving Senegal along with six other officials from the former regime.
The PDS announced it would stage a “national march” in Dakar on Tuesday next week to support the former minister.