Chad’s former oil minister was in custody on Thursday following his arrest for allegedly stealing public funds, the police and his lawyer said.
Djerassem Le Bemadjiel was arrested on Wednesday after a complaint by a state body that reports directly to strongman Idriss Deby, who has been in power since 1990.
Chad is not a major oil producer in Africa but oil revenues account for 40 per cent of GDP and 60 per cent of the arid country’s revenues.
“The former minister has been in police custody since yesterday for the purpose of an investigation following a complaint from the state inspector general (IGE),” police spokesman Colonel Paul Manga told AFP.
The complaint accuses the former minister, who held the oil and energy portfolio between 2013 and 2016, of “stealing public funds” and “illegally using state goods.”
Le Bemadjiel’s lawyer said the arrest was “arbitrary” and “breach of all laws,” arguing that his client was “the victim of a political witch-hunt.”
“They accuse my client of making the state lose $31 million during negotiations with a foreign oil company,” he said.
Le Bemadjiel is also accused of passing fake bills.
The IGE complaint took the minister to task over “irregularities” in his dealings in 2013 and 2014 with auditing firms Alex Stewart International (ASi) et Cameroun Audit Conseil (CAC).