December 15, 2009 / 6:20 AM / 10 years ago

Senegal leader offers French "property" for charity

President of Senegal Abdoulaye Wade gestures during a plenary session at the 1st World Policy Conference in Evian October 7, 2008. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

DAKAR (Reuters) - Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has told French mayors they can sell for charity any hidden property found in his name in France, rejecting accusations he has used public funds to amass real estate.

Wade, the latest in a series of African presidents to face scrutiny over holdings in France, said his only property abroad was a 41-square-metre studio apartment in Paris bought 25 years ago to serve as his party’s headquarters there.

“To show that I am not hiding any asset in France, I hereby mandate all the mayors of France to sell forthwith any property allegedly belonging to me in their commune and use the proceeds for good works,” he said in a statement late on Sunday.

Wade, 83, noted that he was behind a 2001 move in Senegal to require incoming presidents to declare their assets on taking power — something he said was the first of its kind in Africa.

Anti-corruption group “Le Moment de se lever pour L’Afrique” (Time To Rise Up For Africa) lodged a Paris court complaint against Wade in November alleging he embezzled public funds to finance property purchases in France.

The move came a month after a French appeals court halted a judicial probe into luxury homes and cars owned in France by the presidents of oil-producers Gabon, Congo Republic and Equatorial Guinea. The court ruled that civil society activists could not legitimately act as plaintiffs against the foreign leaders.

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