DAKAR (Reuters) – Senegalese authorities have arrested the mayor of the capital Dakar, a potential rival to President Macky Sall in elections expected in 2019, on suspicion of embezzling 1.8 billion CFA francs ($2.87 million), his lawyer said on Wednesday.
Last week a public prosecutor summoned the mayor, Khalifa Sall, who is no relation to the president, to give evidence on how he spent the money between 2011 and 2015.
The mayor, who denies any wrongdoing, was arrested late on Tuesday, the lawyer said.
Khalifa Sall’s socialist party is part of a coalition backing the president, but he has since distanced himself. He has not publicly announced he plans to run against Sall, but has been tipped by his supporters.
“This arrest was made by invoking fallacious arguments about the embezzlement of public finds but in fact it’s aimed at preventing him from carrying out his political ambition,” lawyer Cire Cledor said.
A justice ministry spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.
With few natural resources, Senegal does not suffer from kleptocracy on the scale of the mineral-rich countries in the region, but has nonetheless been dogged by scandals in the past.
Karim Wade, the son of former president Abdoulaye Wade, served three years in prison for corruption, including hiding funds in offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and Panama. He was freed in June last year.
($1 = 626.8800 CFA francs)
(Reporting by Diadie Ba; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Gareth Jones)