Senegal jails former president’s son for corruption

Karim Wade, an ex-minister who had hoped to run for presidency in 2017, jailed for six years and fined more than $230m.

Prosecutors had demanded a seven-year prison term for Karim Wade [AFP]

A special court in Senegal has sentenced the son of former president Abdoulaye Wade to six years in prison for corruption, dashing his hopes of competing in presidential elections due in 2017.

Karim Wade, a 46-year-old former minister who denies any wrongdoing, was found guilty of “illicit enrichment” and fined the equivalent of more than $230m.

In detention since April 2013, Karim was chosen by the main opposition party, the Senegalese Democratic Party (SDP), as its presidential candidate on Saturday, raising the stakes ahead of the verdict.

“The crime of illicit enrichment being proven, Karim Wade: six years in prison and a fine of 138bn CFA francs,” judge Henri Gregoire Diop said in the ruling, adding that Wade had hidden away funds in offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and Panama.

Karim and his lawyers had boycotted the end of the trial after accusing judge Diop of bias, something he strongly denies.

Abdoulaye Wade left without making any comment to the media.

The streets of Dakar were calm immediately after the sentencing amid a heavy police presence to counter possible protests by Karim supporters.

Wade, who staged a four-day hunger strike in January to protest over the conditions of his detention, has repeatedly said he is the victim of a political witch hunt, something the government strongly denies.

“This is a historic decision not only for Senegal but also for the whole of Africa and all those who defend responsibility, citizenship and good governance,” said Simon Ndiaye, one of the state’s lawyers.

President Macky Sall, who ended Abdoulaye Wade’s 12-year rule in a hotly contested election in 2012, said last week his government would not tolerate any attempt to destabilise the West African country following the court ruling.

Prosecutors had demanded a seven-year prison term for Karim.

The next presidential election could come as early as 2017 if Sall wins approval in a referendum due next year on reducing the presidential term to five years from seven.

‘Minister of heaven and Earth’

After a successful career in finance in the City of London, Karim returned to Senegal two years after his father’s 2000 presidential victory, and was soon tapped for a series of increasingly important public positions.

Those included simultaneous appointments to key ministerial portfolios, earning him the nickname “minister of heaven and Earth.”

Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, reporting from Dakar, said: “He [Karim] was responsible for so many portfolios, so many lucrative deals, involving the port in Dakkas, which is a major, strategic port for West Africa.

“He was also responsible for the construction of a new airport. These are multi-million if not billion dollar deals.

“This is where the opposition, who is currently now in power, say he was involved in mass corruption.

“Now, since this sentence, this prevents him from running in the next presidential elections.”

Source: News Agencies