Côte d’Ivoire Presidential candidate, Guillaume Soro, 47, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for corruption.
Soro was convicted in absentia on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.
He was found guilty of “embezzlement of public funds” and “money laundering” when he bought his Abidjan residence in 2007, while he was prime minister of a government of national unity.
The Abidjan court fined him nearly seven million euros ($7.6 million), ordered the confiscation of his Abidjan home, and barred him from civic duties for five years.
The court issued a fresh arrest warrant against him, in effect barring him from contesting elections, and ordered him to pay three million euros in damages and interest to the state.
The former prime minister, who has been living in France on exile since December 2019, denied the corruption charges, claiming they are politically motivated.
Prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Soro in December for allegedly plotting a coup against his former ally Ouattara’s government and stealing public funds.
According to reports, Soro diverted his plane in the air instead of returning home in December to Ivory Coast when it became clear that Ivorian authorities had issued an arrest warrant for him.
Soro has denied the charges, which he says are intended to prevent him from challenging Ouattara’s preferred successor, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, in the election.
If he doesn’t get a successful appeal, the former rebel leader will be banned from standing for the October presidential election.
“I am still running for the presidency and I will win,” Soro said after the verdict, describing the trial as a “parody”.
Government lawyer Ben Meite Abdoulaye dismissed suggestions the verdict was political, calling it a “thunderbolt in the sky of Ivorian corruption”.
“This decision is the start of a new era in Ivory Coast. We must hunt down corruption wherever it is found,” he said.