Ex-Senegal president's son freed after graft pardon
25 June 2016, 07:44
Dakar - Senegalese President Macky Sall on Friday pardoned Karim Wade, the divisive son of his predecessor, letting the former minister go free after serving half of a six-year sentence for graft.
In detention since his 2013 arrest, Wade was found guilty in March 2015 of illicitly amassing a fortune worth at least $198m.
Wade, 47, who held several government portfolios during his father's 2000-2012 rule, was freed in the early hours of Friday morning, said Soro Diop, press officer for the justice ministry.
Diop said Wade had left Dakar for Qatar. According to the Senegalese media and the opposition, he left in a private jet.
The presidency later released a statement saying that the financial sanctions against him remained in place.
Wade was fined the equivalent of more than €210m and his assets were confiscated after his conviction.
Justice Minister Sidiki Kaba said the decision "does not erase the conviction which will remain on his file".
Sall had raised the possibility of a pardon in an interview with French broadcaster RFI on June 2, and had also hinted at a release before the end of Ramadan - due to finish around July 6.
"A lot of people are asking that he be released," the president told RFI on a visit to France, adding that "they should not lose hope".
'Very negative message'
Wade was appointed the presidential candidate for the opposition PDS party, which is still led by his father, days before his conviction. No other names have been put forward to replace him despite his jail time.
Civil society group "Y en a marre" (We're sick of it) which campaigned against Wade's father's attempt at a third term, said on Thursday in anticipation of Sall's decision that his liberation would send out the wrong signals.
"If Karim Wade, who was charged with graft, is freed, that would send out a very negative message to all the people who might be tempted to embezzle public funds," the group said at a press conference.
"It would say 'yes, get rich and we will [still] release you'," they added.
The younger Wade was an extremely divisive figure in Senegalese politics in the run-up to the last election when his father's bid to seek a third term sparked deadly riots.
Many believed ex-president Abdoulaye Wade was trying to line him up for succession.
Wade was charged in 2013 after his father's stunning election defeat to Sall, prompting the PDS and his father to accuse the government of conducting a witch hunt.
After a successful career in finance in London, Wade 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".
He was also chosen to head the National Agency for the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (ANOCI), which successfully oversaw the transformation of Dakar in time to host the 11th Islamic Summit of 57 Muslim countries in 2008 - but was also criticised for a lack of financial transparency.
Backed by his father, Wade was also selected to oversee the construction of a new international airport in Dakar, the restructuring of Senegal's chemical industry and the creation of a special economic zone.
Disparaged for his many years living in Europe, he is seen by many voters as more "toubab" - the west African word for white Europeans - than Senegalese.