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Mali arrests ex-PM Maiga over fraud in presidential jet purchase deal

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Bebeto Matthews/Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga, who was from 2017 to 2019 the Prime Minister of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, overthrown a year ago by a coup d'état, was jailed on Thursday in a case of alleged fraud, announced his lawyer, Kassoum Tapo.

Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga, 67, is a political heavyweight in Mali and has also served as foreign minister, defense minister and intelligence chief. He has never officially confirmed or denied his intentions to run for president.

"Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga was placed under arrest by Mali's Supreme Court on Thursday in a case of damage to public property," said a member of the Supreme Court, who requested anonymity. He is suspected of fraud, forgery, use of forgery, and favoritism, according to this source.

The former head of government arrived in mid-afternoon at the Bamako prison, a prison official said.

He is suspected mainly in connection with the purchase in 2014, when he was Minister of Defense, of a presidential plane for 20 billion CFA francs (about 30.5 million euros), an acquisition pinned by the Auditor General's Office (OAG), an independent Malian authority that has denounced practices of overbilling, embezzlement of public funds, fraud, influence peddling and favoritism.

The former Minister of Economy and Finance, Bouaré Fily Sissoko, was charged and placed under arrest on Thursday on the same grounds, a magistrate said. She was transferred to the women's prison in Bollé, Bamako.

"Big cleanup" 

The Supreme Court prosecutor, Mamadou Timbo, had announced on Tuesday on public television that this case was not closed, contrary to what had publicly stated on August 19 Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga, who had ensured that he had been cleared by the dismissal in 2018 of the case.

"At one point, under the former regime, it had been instructed to the prosecutor of the Republic of the economic and financial pole of then to close the case without continuation (...). Subsequently, another Minister of Justice considered that this case should not be dismissed. Additional investigations were conducted (...). The judicial work will be done," the prosecutor explained at the time.

"There is nothing more dangerous for the health of a Republic than impunity," he said.

"This affair of the presidential plane can splash many people, it is perhaps the beginning of a great washing," commented a former senior Malian official.

Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga is reputed to have an important network in Malian and regional security circles. He heads the ASMA-CFP (Alliance for Solidarity in Mali-Convergence of Patriotic Forces).

He was forced to leave the Ministry of Defense in May 2014, after a heavy defeat of the army in Kidal (northeast) against the Tuareg rebellion.

Military in power

Appointed Prime Minister in 2017, he had been forced to resign in April 2019 after the massacre the previous month of some 160 Fulani civilians in Ogossagou (center) and a series of protests against the management of the state.

President Keïta was overthrown by a military putsch on August 18, 2020, following several months of protests against corruption and the powerlessness of the state in the face of violence.

The new strongman, Colonel Assimi Goïta, has pledged to hand over to civilians after presidential and legislative elections scheduled for February 2022.

But doubts persist as to whether the authorities will be able to meet the deadlines in the six months remaining, given the considerable obstacles to be overcome in this country that has been in turmoil for years. The spread of jihadism and violence of all kinds goes hand in hand with serious political and social crises.

The violence in Mali, which began with independence and then jihadist rebellions in the north, has spread to the center and south of the country, mixing with inter-communal conflicts and vicious attacks in areas where the state's influence is very weak.

The phenomenon has spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, where groups affiliated with al-Qaeda or the Islamic State also operate.


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