Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 September 2019

Algeria to investigate 10 former ministers over alleged corruption

Most of the ministers, including two former premiers, who have been named by prosecutors served in the cabinet just before president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned

A protester wears the Algerian flag and carries a placard in front of police during a demonstration for the departure of the Algerian regime in Algiers, Algeria EPA
A protester wears the Algerian flag and carries a placard in front of police during a demonstration for the departure of the Algerian regime in Algiers, Algeria EPA

Algeria is to investigate two former prime ministers and eight former Cabinet members over accusations of corruption after mass protests against the ruling elite this year.

Most of the ministers named by the prosecutors served in the cabinet just before president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned on April 2 under pressure from protesters and the army, Reuters reported.

They include former prime ministers Abdelmalek Sellal, who was also Mr Bouteflika's election campaign manager, and Ahmed Ouyahia.

The others are Amara Benyounes, former minister for trade; Abdelakader Zaalane, transport; Amar Ghoul, public works; Karim Djoudi, finance; Abdessalam Bouchouareb, industry; Boudjemaa Talai, transport; Amar Tou, higher education; and Abdelkader Bouazghi, agriculture.

With the army now the most powerful institution, Chief of Staff Lt Gen Ahmed Gaed Salah has promised to rid the country of corrupt politicians, oligarchs and military officials to restore confidence among the people and bring an end to the protests that began in February.

Several oligarchs, including Algeria’s richest man, Issad Rebrab, are behind bars with investigations continuing.

Mr Rebrab is chairman of the family-owned Cevital company, which imports raw sugar from Brazil and exports white sugar to Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Police arrested Said Bouteflika, the youngest brother of former president, and two former intelligence chiefs, Gen Bachir Tartag and Gen Mohamed Mediene, this month.

At least five prominent businessmen have also been detained pending trial over claims of involvement in corruption cases.

Finance Minister Mohamed Loukal appeared in Algiers as part of an investigation into the suspected misuse of public funds.

And former police chief Abdelghani Hamel, who was sacked last year by Mr Bouteflika for undisclosed reasons, and his son appeared in Tipaza, west of the capital, as part of an investigation into illegal activities.

Protesters also want the resignation of interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, who are considered part of the ruling elite that has run the country since independence from France in 1962.

Also on Sunday, the deadline to register for Algeria’s presidential election passed without a single candidate putting themselves forward.

It could mean a delay to the July 4 poll amid complaints from protesters that they are ready to reject the legitimacy of any vote held under the existing authorities, who they say are tarnished by corruption.

Mr Bouteflika stepped down after pressure from Lt Gen Salah, who declared him unfit for office, to avoid prolonged turmoil.

The army has since offered to secure a smooth transition under the framework of the constitution.

Mass protests, which began on February 22 and have been largely peaceful, have continued after Mr Bouteflika’s resignation as many want the removal of an entire elite that has governed Algeria since its independence from France in 1962.

They also want people they consider corrupt to be prosecuted.

Updated: May 28, 2019 04:28 AM

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