A court in Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott on Monday sentenced former president, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, to five years in prison for having abused his position to amass an ill-gotten fortune.
Aziz, who ruled the pivotal country between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa between 2008 and 2019, fell into disgrace under successor and current President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, a former political ally.
The former president had been on trial since January alongside 10 other prominent figures — including two former prime ministers — for illicit enrichment, abuse of functions, influence-peddling and laundering.
He was convicted of illicit enrichment and laundering but cleared of the other charges.
The court also ordered the confiscation of Aziz’s illicitly acquired assets.
The 66-year-old former head of state did not react to the judgement.
Aziz has been in detention since January 24, having also spent several months in prison in 2021.
He received the longest sentence of all the defendants in the trial, with two former prime ministers and two former ministers cleared of the charges.
“The trial we attended was a political trial, and its verdict is also very political,” one of Aziz’s lawyers, Mohameden Ould Icheddou, said.
Another of his lawyers announced their intention to appeal against the verdict.
But a state lawyer, Brahim Ould Ebetti, told AFP that the verdict was “very lenient”.
Prosecutions of former heads of state are rare in the world, but especially so in Africa. Most former leaders brought to national or international courts are tried for blood crimes rather than corruption.
Mauritania ranked 130th out of 180 in the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index by the organisation Transparency International.