Fraud allegations: Algeria’s police arrest billionaires

Prosecutors are investigating “insider influence to obtain undue advantages and misappropriation of real estate”.
Photo credit: File photo

Algerian police have arrested four businessmen from a powerful family with links to the entourage of ousted President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, state television reported Monday.

Abdelkader, Reda, Karim and Tarek Kouninef were arrested late Sunday in the capital Algiers, in relation to a probe into non-compliance with state contracts.

Prosecutors are investigating “insider influence to obtain undue advantages and misappropriation of real estate”, state television reported.

The Kouninef family is hugely influential and the four brothers have dealings in everything from agribusiness to civil engineering.

They are said to be close to Said Bouteflika, the younger brother and former advisor of the president who stepped down on April 2 after weeks of mass protests against his 20-year rule.

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Army chief, Ahmed Gaid Salah has since called on prosecutors to “accelerate the pace” of probes into corrupt tycoons with ties to Bouteflika’s inner circle.

One of Algeria’s top businessmen and a Bouteflika backer, Ali Haddad, was arrested in late March as he tried to cross the border into Tunisia with two passports and undeclared currency.

The day after he was detained, prosecutors announced graft probes into unnamed individuals and banned corruption suspects from leaving the country.

Algerian media has reported around a dozen businessmen are under investigation, all with ties to Bouteflika’s entourage.

The move came after Algeria’s army chief, Lieutenant General Gaid Salah, said last week he expected members of the ruling elite in the major oil and natural gas-producing country to be prosecuted for corruption.

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An Algerian court has already summoned former prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia and current Finance Minister Mohamed Loukal, two close associates of Bouteflika, in an investigation into suspected misuse of public money, state TV said on Saturday.

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