Senegal: Senegal’s Karim Wade freed by Macky Sall and ‘flies to Qatar’

SenegalThe son of Senegal’s ex-President Abdoulaye Wade has been freed from prison after receiving a presidential pardon, the government has said.

Karim Wade served three years of a six-year sentence for illegally enriching himself during his father’s rule.

He left Senegal immediately after his release for Qatar, a justice ministry spokesman said.

Karim Wade was charged with corruption after President Macky Sall took power in elections in 2012.

He defeated Abdoulaye Wade and pledged to tackle corruption.

Karim Wade was also fined $230m (£150m) for illegally accumulating a fortune of at least $200m.

He had hidden away funds in offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and Panama, a court ruled.

The payment of the fine was not covered by the pardon, Mr Sall’s office said in a statement.

The BBC’s Maud Jullien reports from the capital, Dakar, that Mr Sall freed Karim Wade following pressure from influential religious leaders who felt the move would enhance national unity in the West African state.

The opposition Senegalese Democratic Party chose Karim Wade as its presidential candidate for the 2019 polls while he was in prison.

It is unclear whether he is still eligible to run for the presidency.

Karim Wade was a senior minister in his father’s government, and was in charge of major infrastructure and energy projects.

His large portfolio led to him being dubbed “the minister of the earth and the sky”

Authorities on Friday freed Karim Wade, the son of Senegal’s longtime former president, after he served half of his six-year sentence on charges of corruption and illegally accumulating a fortune of at least $200 million.

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The former Cabinet minister has long been a divisive figure in Senegal. He became so powerful under his father, ex-President Abdoulaye Wade, that Senegalese derisively referred to him as “Minister of the Sky and the Earth” and critics feared he was being groomed as a possible successor.

Karim Wade’s arrest and prosecution in a special anti-corruption court was the most high-profile case in the crackdown on graft waged by current leader Macky Sall, who defeated Abdoulaye Wade in a 2012 election. Karim Wade’s supporters said his 2015 conviction was evidence of a personal vendetta against the family. The Wades have dismissed the charges as politically motivated.

Originally accused of amassing a fortune of more than $1.3 billion, Karim Wade was fined around $230 million as part of his sentence.

In a presidential decree, Sall said the financial sanctions and penalties against Wade remained in place, and Justice Minister Sidiki Kaba said the state would continue to confiscate assets.

Wade flew to Qatar immediately after being released. In a statement, he thanked the Gulf country’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, “who out of friendship for me, never stopped intervening to put an end to the injustice I suffered for four years.”

Wade said the conditions of his release made it impossible for him to see supporters before leaving. He did not elaborate. Authorities had sought to avoid a repeat of the unrest that was unleashed the day of his conviction, when young supporters set tires ablaze in the streets.

Sall’s popularity has faltered amid complaints he hasn’t done enough to improve the lives of ordinary Senegalese. The next presidential election is set for 2019, and many of Karim Wade’s supporters hope he will be a candidate.

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