Gabon ex minister jailed in rare anti-graft measure

Libreville - A powerful former minister and advisor to Gabon's President Ali Bongo has been jailed pending trial for graft in a rare move against corruption in the small oil-rich nation.

Magloire Ngambia was placed in custody in a Libreville jail on Tuesday, according to the remand order released by Gabonese media.

The 45-year-old former economy minister and advisor to Bongo, who quit the government in 2015, is facing charges of embezzling state funds to the tune of $810m, news website Gabonreview said.

"For the first time a former government minister has been sent to the 'Sans-Famille' (jail) for an affair of embezzling public money," said the daily l'Union, which is close to the regime but is often critical of its policies.

The paper said the move signalled the end of impunity for VIPs. "No one is untouchable any longer in our country," it said.

News of Ngambia's incarceration came on the heels of this week's sacking of Oil Minister Etienne Dieudonne Ngoubou, who left his office on Tuesday to a chorus of boos from ministry staff.

Press reports said he was interrogated on Wednesday as part of an inquiry into the management of funds linked to the oil industry.

Another leading figure in the oil industry was detained early this week, the press said, and several post office managers too have been detained.

The anti-corruption drive comes as Gabon prepares to host football's 2017 Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday.

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