Son of Senegalese ex-president in custody

Karim Wade, the son of former Senegalese leader Abdoulaye Wade, waves while being arrested on April 15, 2013, in Dakar.  By  (AFP/File)

Karim Wade, the son of former Senegalese leader Abdoulaye Wade, waves while being arrested on April 15, 2013, in Dakar. By (AFP/File)

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 of Lebanese origin, a former head of airport operator Aeroports du Senegal and two officials from airport ground handling company Aviation Service Senegal (Senegal AHS), the ministry source told AFP.

They have been charged with “complicity in illicit enrichment”, along with Wade’s former communications adviser and two others about whom no information has been given.

Wade is alleged to have acquired companies and real estate by corrupt means, including land across the capital Dakar, the local subsidiary of Dubai Ports World, which runs the port container terminal in Senegal’s capital, and fleet of luxury cars.

The 44-year-old’s arrest on Monday came just hours after his legal team had filed a dossier of more than 2,000 pages in response to an order from 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 dossier.

Wade, who was not present at the court, denies corruption and says his vast fortune is entirely legitimate.

Under Senegalese law, investigators will have a maximum of six months to investigate Wade before proceeding to trial or clearing him, although he could remain on remand throughout what could be a lengthy hearing.

Officials from Senegal’s anti-corruption court on Tuesday set out the case against the former minister, 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, who won a resounding victory in a March 2012 poll marred by violence over the octogenarian’s efforts to seek a third term in office, launched a number of audits into the finances of political rivals shortly after his inauguration.

Several leaders of the 2000-2012 Wade regime, including his son, have been repeatedly questioned by police and judges investigating allegations of “illegal enrichment”.

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.

PDS lawmaker Fatou Thiam said Wade was being “hounded” because he was a potential rival of Sall in the 2017 presidential election.

The party announced it would stage a “national march” in Dakar on Tuesday next week to support the former minister.