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Ex-Senegal leader’s son awaits decision on corruption claims

AFP-JIJI

The son of former Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade was set to discover Wednesday whether he is to be charged following his arrest after a probe into his vast fortune, which is valued at nearly $1.5 billion.

Karim Wade, who held a number of Cabinet posts during his father’s presidency, is being detained at a police station in the capital, Dakar, in the latest twist in an ongoing legal battle with the current regime over alleged illicit gains from his time in office.

He is alleged to have corruptly acquired a number of foreign companies, including Dubai Port World, which runs the port container terminal in Dakar, as well as Moroccan bank BCME and airport ground-support firm AHS.

Chief anticorruption prosecutor Alioune Ndao told a news conference in Dakar that the investigation into Wade’s financial affairs was “four-fifths complete,” and said judges would decide later Wednesday whether he would be prosecuted.

Meanwhile, officials from Senegal’s anticorruption court briefly set out the case against Wade, who was allegedly engaged in a huge operation involving the movement of money through front organizations in tax havens worldwide.

“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.

He said investigators had uncovered offshore companies “whose speciality is to charge for services that exist only in the imagination of their authors, with millions of euros or dollars at stake.” In addition, transfers were discovered between banks “from one tax haven to another, involving very well-known Senegalese people,” Diome said.

“The strategy was always to rely on friends and relatives or the employees of friends and relatives,” he said.

According to local reports, Wade was arrested along with a number of alleged “accomplices,” including his former communications adviser, a manager of an airport ground support company, a businessman and an accountant.

The 44-year-old’s arrest Monday evening sparked clashes between security forces and around 50 of his supporters who were dispersed with tear gas outside the police station. It came just hours after Wade’s legal team filed a dossier of more than 2,000 pages in response to an order from the anticorruption court to explain the provenance of assets allegedly worth in excess of $1.4 billion.

Wade, who was not present in court, denies the accusations and says his vast fortune is entirely legitimate. His lawyers have accused the prosecution of “inventing” the claims and attributing property to Wade that had clearly been registered in the name of the state.

Ndao, the chief prosecutor, said he had ordered the arrest because, having studied the dossier carefully for two hours, he was “not convinced of the relevance” of Wade’s evidence.

Wade’s lawyers had suggested that Ndao would not have had time to assess “nearly 3,000 items of evidence” before making a decision to have their client arrested, and had been planning Wade’s detention regardless of what the dossier revealed. However, Ndao told reporters that the file was just 42 pages long, “the rest being related documents.”