NIAMEY (Reuters) - Niger jailed a close ally of former president Mamadou Tandja on Monday on suspicion of embezzling some 20 billion CFA francs ($40 million) as head of the state electricity company, judicial sources said.
The arrest marked another blow against corruption in the poor West African nation by President Mamadou Issoufou’s government, which has made tackling graft a priority since taking office in 2011.
“Foukory Ibrahim, the former head of Nigelec, was imprisoned on Monday in the framework of an investigation into embezzlement at the company,” a magistrate in the capital Niamey told Reuters, asking not to be identified.
Ibrahim ran Nigelec until February 2010 when Tandja was toppled in a coup. He has been a member of parliament for the opposition MNSD party for two years but was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in March 2012 as part of the investigation.
He was detained in a non-military prison in Kollo, 35 km (22 miles) southeast of Niamey.
The landlocked former French colony remains one of the poorest countries in the world despite rich uranium deposits.
In February, Niger arrested about 20 doctors suspected of embezzling funds from a charity backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote vaccination in poor countries, the Gavi Alliance.
Last year, Issoufou fired two ministers suspected of illegally awarding state contracts.
($1 = 502.3990 CFA francs)
Reporting by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Mohammad Zargham