The former President of Comoros, Ahmed Abdallah Sambi has been charged and detained in connection with an investigation into embezzlement during a large-scale passport fraud, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Sambi was in power from 2006 to 2011 and is one of the main opponents of the current regime. He has been under house arrest for four months and accused of breaching public order. Sambi has denied all accusations leveled against him.
On Monday, a judge charged him with “corruption, misappropriation of public funds, complicity in forgeries and use of false in a passport fraud scandal.
A recent parliamentary report accused Sambi and his successor, Ikililou Dhoinine, of embezzling millions of dollars in a state-of-the-art passport sale program to stateless people.
Comoros launched a programme with the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait in 2008 to sell citizenship to stateless people in those countries in return for cash to help develop the nation.
A probe by the Comoros parliament and released earlier this year found that thousands of passports were sold outside official channels and at least $100 million of revenues went missing.
Sambi’s lawyers had previously challenged his house arrest, arguing that the move was an attack on democracy in Comoros.
Mahamoud Ahamada, one of Sambi’s lawyers who confirmed that he has been charged and restricted said, ‘‘Sambi no longer has access to his telephone and the conditions of his detention are prison-like. It seems he has been detained and charged in relation to the (passport) issue”, he said.
President Azali Assoumani recently won a referendum that will extend presidential term limits and also end the system of rotating power between the nation’s three main islands.