Privilege, crime and punishment; incredible stories of African former – and current - First Sons

Being the son or daughter of a president is an elevated position. There is one problem; if you fall, sometimes it can be a very big drop.

LIFE was once good for these former First Sons, until their fathers left power and either the long arm of the law or winds of political misfortune, finally caught up with them.

On March 23, Karim Wade, the 46-year-old son of Senegal’s former President, Abdoulaye Wade, was handed a six-year sentence and fined $230 million for illicitly enriching himself and amassing an estimated $1.4 billion fortune, hidden in offshore companies in Panama and the British Virgin Islands.

Detained since April 2013, Karim was an influential figure in his father’s court and was at one point State Minister for International Cooperation, Regional Development, Air Transport and Infrastructure.

Karim Wade inside a prison van with warders. (Photo AFP)

He’s not the only former First Son behind bars.

Saif Islam, dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s second eldest son has been locked up since November 2011 when he was captured by Zintan-based militia as he attempted to flee Libya, weeks after dad and brother Mutassim had been captured and killed by rebel fighters.

Once widely seen as his father’s heir-apparent, Saif dismissed interest in active politics and didn’t hold any official government post. He however did some diplomatic and public relations work on his father’s behalf. The PhD holder from London School of Economics reportedly paid more than $3 million to a ghost writer for his doctoral thesis in 2008.

He’s now wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, for torturing and killing civilians and protesters during the 2011 uprising.

Gaddafi football rules

Gaddafi’s other surviving son, Al-Saadi, who had fled to Niger earlier, was in March 2014 extradited to Libya and also held for his alleged role in suppressing the uprising against his father’s regime.

During the revolution, Al-Saadi headed a special forces brigade which cracked down on protesters and rebels. Before all that though, he was more known for his unremarkable football career.

Al-Saadi’s biggest talent was that he was Gaddafi’s son. He tried everything, including football, and didn’t impress. He is paying the price for role in his father’s regime. 

He was Captain of his home club in Tripoli, Captain of Libya’s National Football Team and President of the country’s Football Federation. Libyan football was arranged to favour Al-Saadi. There are accounts of a law that forbade anyone from mentioning any other player’s name. With the exception of Saadi, the rest of the team went by the numbers on their shirts.

His club was favoured by referees and one unfortunate coach was even fired for not selecting him once. Security forces were used to quell protests, including a 1996 incident that left several people dead when they opened fire on fans at a football match.

When Bashir al-Riyani, a popular Libyan footballer and critic of the Gaddafi regime was murdered in 2005, some suspected Saadi was behind it. 

In 2003, he signed for Italian Club Perugia and while he had enough money to hire Diego Maradona as his technical consultant, he couldn’t buy time on the pitch, managing only one substitution appearance for the club before failing a drug test.

Other European clubs he played for include Udinese Calcio where he played only ten minutes in their 2005-06 end of season league match against Cagliari Calcio and U.C. Sampdoria whom he joined for the 2006–07 season but he never played a single game.

Three years after things fell apart for his family, Saadi appeared on State television, head shaved and wearing a blue prison uniform - a far cry from his “superstar” days - to apologise to Libyans and ask their forgiveness for the decades-long oppression. Like his brother Saif, he too is still in jail. 

The Mubarak boys

In neighbouring Egypt, Alaa and Gamal Mubarak were also detained following the 2011 revolution that ousted their father Hosni Mubarak from power.

The Mubarak boys Alaa (L) and Gamal: Together with their father, at one point all the them in the house were in jail. (Photo AFP).

The brothers, aged 53 and 51 respectively, had been sentenced to four years and their father three for allegedly embezzling $16 million earmarked for the maintenance of presidential palaces.

It was only two months ago on January 26 that Alaa and Gamal were released, pending retrial, after the Court of Cassation, citing breach of legal procedures, overturned all three’s conviction. The retrial opens on April 4. Their father who had also been sentenced to life imprisonment in June 2012 for failing to prevent the deaths of hundreds of Egyptian protesters was last November acquitted of all murder charges after another retrial, but he remains held in a military hospital on a separate corruption case related to gas exports to Israel.

Nguema Obiang Junior

Teodoro Nguema Obiang, the eldest son of Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang and Second Vice President of his country, must be grateful his father is still in power after 35 years and hoping that that doesn’t change.

Obiang Jr could teach a degree course on living large: He has done it all. (Photo AFP).

The old man has been grooming him for years for the presidency, so it won’t surprising if he ascends the throne upon the veteran strongman’s exit.

In October 2014, some of Obiang Jr’s assets including a Ferrari, Michael Jackson memorabilia, and his mansion in Malibu, California, were sold off to recover around $30 million to settle a corruption case filed against him by the US Department of Justice for relentless extortion of his country’s resources, mostly gas and oil, to support his extravagant lifestyle.

Young Zuma and his Porsche

The recovered money is to be channeled through a charity to benefit the people of Equatorial Guinea. Obiang allegedly made so many millions from kickbacks and bribes that he reportedly spent $315 million on properties and luxury goods between 2004 and 2011, including a Gulfstream jet valued at $38 million, yachts, two houses in South Africa, another in Paris, France. 

That one was seized by the French Police in 2012, along with his fleet of luxury cars including Bugattis, Bentleys, a Maserati and a Lamborghini, in another corruption crackdown.

Another First Son who can breathe easy for now is South African President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane, whose Porsche rear-ended a minibus taxi in Rivonia, Johannesburg, killing one and injuring three others last February. 

Duduzane Zuma: There is the small matter of the person who died when he wrapped his Porsche around the rear of a mini van.

Initially, the National Prosecuting Authority declined to prosecute him due to insufficient evidence, but a Johannesburg court later determined that his negligence had cost a life and he should be charged with culpable homicide although that hasn’t happened yet.

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