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Senegal court upholds graft conviction against ex-president’s son

Senegal’s supreme court on Thursday upheld a graft conviction and six-year jail term against Karim Wade, the son of Senegal’s ex-president Abdoulaye Wade, in a blow to his own presidential aspirations.

A former “super minister” with several portfolios in his father’s government, Karim was convicted in March for amassing an ill-gotten fortune in a deeply divisive case that has led to opposition protests in Dakar.

The supreme court rejected an appeal by Wade to overturn the conviction in which he was also fined more than 210 million euros ($230 million).

His lawyers’ arguments that the anti-corruption tribunal that convicted him was biased and complaints about its composition and jurisdiction over a former minister, were ruled “unfounded” by the court.

Karim was charged in 2013 with corruption after his father’s stunning election defeat to Macky Sall the previous year, prompting the former ruling Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) and his father to accuse the government of conducting a witch hunt.

He was initially accused of amassing about one billion euros but this amount was later whittled down to 178 million euros.

Shortly before his conviction the 47-year-old was chosen by the PDS as its candidate for the country’s next presidential election, expected sometime between 2017 and 2019 depending on a pending mandate reform.

“After having exhausted all legal avenues the Senegalese Democratic Party will use political avenues to settle an eminently political case,” said party spokesman Babacar Gaye.

The younger Wade was an extremely divisive figure in Senegalese politics in the run-up to the country’s last election when his father’s bid to seek a third term sparked deadly riots.

Many believed Abdoulaye Wade, in power from 2000-2012, was trying to line him up for succession.

Karim was often criticised for his mismanagement of public finances and was nicknamed “the minister of heaven and earth” after his father placed him in charge of the international cooperation, air transport, infrastructure and energy portfolios.

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.

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