Algeria sends former premier to prison for corruption

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By Agencies

The Algerian Supreme Court has sent to prison former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, the latest chapter in an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign in the history of the country.

The crackdown Wednesday coincided with continuing popular protests since Feb. 22 to claim radical changes and trial of figures who served under ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

On Wednesday, Ouyahia was sent to provisional prison, while former minister of public works and transport, Abdelghani Zaalane, was placed under judicial probation pending investigation.

These two former senior officials are accused of squandering public funds while providing illegal privileges to specified businessmen, including former head of Employers Forum (FCE) and CEO of construction and public works group ETRHB, Ali Haddad.

The indictment list also includes the Kouninef brothers, who own a large construction group named KouGC, and Mahieddine Tahkout, CEO of an auto assembly and student transportation group.

Haddad, Kouninef brothers and Tahkout, in addition to billionaire Issad Rebrab, CEO of the largest private group in Algeria, Cevital, have all been sent to investigative custody so far.

The Algerian justice has accelerated the pace of prosecutions, given that a group of 12 former senior government officials are also due to be tried for violations, squandering of public funds, and corruption while they were serving on public posts.

This large-scale anti-corruption operation comes amidst popular protests denouncing the country’s poor governance and money laundering, demanding that the people involved be brought to justice.

High-ranking army officers and prominent politicians are behind bars, including Said Bouteflika, brother of ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, two former intelligence chiefs, namely Mohamed Mediene and Athmane Tartag, as well as General Secretary of the Workers Party (left-wing opposition), Louisa Hanoune, who are charged by the military court with “attacking the authority of the army and conspiring against the authority of the state.”

Sisi’s warning on corruption

Meanwhile in Cairo Egypt President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has urged African states to intensify joint efforts for fighting corruption, saying corruption is depleting the economies of African countries.

Sisi’s remarks came on Wednesday during an opening session of the two-day African Anti-Corruption Forum (AACF) held in Egypt’s Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh.

The Egyptian president stressed that fighting corruption in Africa needs united and coordinated efforts among African states in the political, legislative, judicial and regulatory fields.

“Egypt has gone a long way in recent years in the field of fighting corruption with all its forms and it attached importance to conducting researches, studies and polls to find the reasons of corruption,” Sisi told the attendees at the forum.

The first AACF is being held in Egypt while the country is the current one-year president of the African Union.

Sisi emphasized the necessity for deepening international cooperation with key partners of Africa to achieve the desired goals in this regard.

“We have a fixed belief that fighting corruption and changing the status of our continent will not be achieved except through rallying efforts, crystallizing a joint vision and enhancing coordinated African mechanisms to limit corruption on all axes,” he said.