DAKAR - The flamboyant "super minister" son of former Senegalese leader Abdoulaye Wade is to be tried in June for corruption after accumulating a fortune valued at well over $1 billion, a judicial source said on Thursday.
Karim Wade is alleged to have acquired by corrupt means companies and real estate valued at $1.4 billion (1 billion euros), including land in Dakar, a fleet of luxury cars and media and finance companies operating across Africa.
"Karim Wade will remain in prison and will go on trial in two months for illicit enrichment," the ministry of justice source told AFP.
Wade, a powerful minister in his father's regime, has been on remand in a Dakar prison for exactly one year since his arrest and the city's anti-corruption court ordered he remain in custody, the source said.
Under Senegalese law, officials would normally have had a maximum of six months to investigate the 45-year-old before sending him to trial or dismissing the case.
But the anti-corruption court extended the pre-trial detention period in October for another six months, adding a fresh charge relating to an unexplained sum of $205 million which prosecutors say Wade deposited into several Monaco bank accounts.
An account in Singapore containing $95 million was attributed to him this week.
Wade refused last week to answer questions from investigating judges, stating that the "charges against me are political and fanciful", but he has consistently denied any wrongdoing and said his wealth was acquired legitimately.
- 'Witch hunt' -
The former ruling Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) accuses the regime of Macky Sall, who ended the 12-year rule of Wade's father in 2012 presidential elections, of conducting a "witch hunt" against the PDS hierarchy since it came to power.
Sall launched a number of audits into the finances of political rivals shortly after his inauguration and several leaders of the Wade regime have been repeatedly questioned by police and judges.
In July last year, the regional court of the Economic Community of West African States rejected a request for Wade's immediate release, however, ruling that Senegal was not violating his rights by detaining him.
Court officials publicly set out the case against the former minister the day after his arrest, detailing a huge operation involving the movement of money through front organisations in tax havens across the world.
"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," prosecutor Antoine Diome said.
- International playboy -
The younger Wade was an extremely divisive figure in Senegalese politics in the run-up to the presidential elections in March 2012, with many believing his father was trying to line him up for succession.
He was often criticised for his mismanagement of public finances and was nicknamed "super minister" and "the minister of the earth and the sky" after his father placed him in charge of the international cooperation, air transport, infrastructure and energy portfolios.
He was seen as an outsider after living for many years in Europe and returning to high profile positions as an adviser to the veteran president and later as a cabinet minister.
Described as haughty and arrogant, Wade led the lifestyle of an international playboy during his years in his father's government, travelling mostly in private jets and frequenting Dakar's most prestigious restaurants.
He counted among his friends King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
A former financial expert in the City of London, he was adored by his father but unpopular among ordinary people in Senegal, where he was accused of speaking the main national language, Wolof, very poorly after having lived too long abroad.
In a sign of his unpopularity, he was beaten in municipal elections in Dakar in 2009, not even getting a majority of the vote in his local polling station.
The father of three daughters lost his French-German wife Karine, who was in her 30s, to cancer in the same year.