Graft: Niger ex-minister charged

2010-08-31 13:50

Niamey - A court in Niger has charged former finance minister Ali Lamine Zene with corruption for suspected embezzlement and has released him on bail, according to the politician's lawyer.

Lamine Zene, who was finance minister under the ousted president Mamadou Tandja, was arrested by detectives in Niamey on Thursday and held until Monday, lawyer Moussa Coulibaly told a press briefing.

According to the local press, the ex-minister was arrested after a case was made against him by the Commission to Fight Against Economic and Financial Deliquency, which was set up by the junta that seized power on February 18.

Coulibaly told the press that his client has been asked to "$188 000" paid out in "expenses and gifts offered to Niger's financial partners".

The case is one of about 30 before the anti-fraud commission, which was set up by General Salou Djibo's junta to help recover money that was embezzled while Tandja was president.

The junta, which is known as the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy, overthrew Tandja after a constitutional crisis in which he tried to extend his hold on power beyond his elected mandate.

The military regime pledged to take action over financial crimes and the work of the anti-fraud commission has already led to the arrest of former prime minister Seini Oumarou and three other people for alleged embezzlement.

These four men have also been freed on bail.

Tandja's former ruling National Movement for a Developing Society has decried the arrests as a "witch-hunt".

Tandja and his interior minister Albade Abouba have been held under house arrest since the coup in February.