Dakar: The flamboyant "super minister" son of former Senegalese leader Abdoulaye Wade on Thursday went on trial accused of accumulating a multi-million dollar fortune through corruption while in office.
Karim Wade, 45, is alleged to have acquired by corrupt means companies and real estate worth almost USD 240 million and has been in custody in Dakar for more than a year.
Wade, dressed all in white, told the packed Dakar anti-corruption court in his opening statement that he was a "political prisoner".
Prosecutors claim the money he made is in tax havens Monaco and Singapore, although his defence claim to have demonstrated that almost half is in a Singapore account which doesn`t belong to Wade.
His lawyers say the real amount linked to Wade is closer to USD 2.7 million, a sum he earned legitimately as a European trader before entering government.
A large crowd gathered at the court to support the defendant including his mother Viviane and several senior political allies.
Flanked by two prison guards he arrived to chants of "Karim! Karim!" and greeted his supporters with a smile and two arms raised in a gesture of victory.
Several alleged accomplices are also expected to stand trial, although the number was not immediately clear.
Wade`s legal team has complained about "a gross manipulation" of the facts in the case and say their client is being set up as part of a conspiracy to stop him running for the 2017 presidential election.
The former ruling Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) accuses the regime of Macky Sall, who ended the 12-year rule of Wade`s father in the 2012 presidential election, 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.
Court officials publicly set out the case against the former minister the day after his arrest in April 2013, detailing a huge operation involving the movement of money through front organisations in tax havens across the world.