Middle East

Algerian billionaires in court as part of anti-corruption drive

The five billionaires were arrested and brought to court on Monday to face charges from the general prosecutor’s office in Algiers.

There were no details of the charge sheets but the arrests follow an announcement by Algeria’s army chief, Lieutenant General Gaid Salah, who said last week he expected members of the ruling elite to be prosecuted for corruption. The army remains the most powerful institution in Algeria.

The five arrested men are:

  • Issad Rebrab, the founder and CEO of Cevital, Algeria’s biggest privately held company, with interests in food, oil and sugar refining. He claimed he was answering a police call to give evidence in a case of seized industrial equipment.
  • The brothers Reda, Abdelkader, Karim and Tarek Kouninef, who were close to the president’s brother and won key public works contracts in telecommunications and construction for their KouGC private group.

Former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and Finance Minister Mohamed Louka, also close to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, have already been summoned to appear in court.

Earlier in April, one of Algeria’s richest men, Ali Haddad, was detained as he tried to cross the border into Tunisia, carrying large amounts of money.

Protests continue ahead of July vote

In the ninth consecutive week of street demonstrations, hundreds of thousands of people protested again on Friday. They want a new generation of political leaders to replace the current veterans, many of whom have exercised power for decades.

Demonstrators are also calling for changes to the economy, which they say is held back by cronyism. Algeria is a major exporter of oil and natural gas.

Abdelkader Bensalah, the former head of the upper house of parliament, took over from Bouteflika as interim president for 90 days until a presidential election is held on July 4. On Monday, he invited civil society and political parties to discuss the transition to elections, but several parties and activists said they would not participate.

jm/ng (Reuters, AFP)

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