Former Mauritania President Abdel Aziz Arrested

Former Mauritania President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz Arrested (News Central TV)

On the eve of his trial for abuse of authority and accumulating an illegal fortune, police detained former president of Mauritania Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on Tuesday, according to a lawyer.

Defence attorneys said that after being asked to report to police, the 66-year-old refused. In the nation’s capital Nouakchott, the police “came to hunt for him at home” with a warrant in hand. The attorneys said that he was apprehended without incident.

Abdel Aziz spent the night in detention before the unusual prosecution of a former African head of state was set to begin on Wednesday morning.

According to a security source, more members of his former government who are accused of corruption, money laundering, and unlawful enrichment were also detained.

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The former general held office for 11 years after a coup. After serving two terms as president and putting an end to a terrorist insurgency that threatened the conservative West African state, he resigned in 2019.

He was followed by Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, his former right-hand man, in the nation’s first transfer of power between elected leaders in a time of military coups and instability.

A parliamentary probe into financial transactions during Abdel Aziz’s presidency was launched in 2020.

It probed into oil revenues, sales of state property, the closure of a publicly traded food supply company, and the operations of a Chinese fishing firm.

Then accusations were levelled at Abdel Aziz and 11 other people, including one of his son-in-laws, two former prime ministers, and a number of ex-ministers and businessmen.

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The former president is thought to have accumulated a fortune worth more than $72 million. He denounces a political plot and has declined to comment on the origin of his money.

Abdel Aziz wrote in a note released by lawyers on Tuesday that he will appear in court “to defend his honour” against “extravagant and fallacious accusations”. He claims immunity from prosecution under the constitution.

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