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Algeria reopens corruption probe against former energy minister close to Bouteflika

Five of Algeria's richest men were arrested earlier this week [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 April, 2019

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Algeria's supreme court said on Wednesday that corruption investigations against former energy minister Chakib Khelil had been reopened, following the arrests of five of the country's richest men this week.

Algeria has reopened a corruption probe against a former energy minister close to ousted leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika, state media reported.

Chakib Khelil, 79, was energy minister for a decade before he quit the government in 2010.

While Khelil managed to fend off previous accusations of corruption a few years ago, Algerian authorities on Wednesday announced they reopened investigations, adding to the arrests this week of four tycoons with links to Bouteflika on graft charges.

Algeria's richest man, Issad Rebrab, was also detained on suspected false customs declarations this week.

Rebrab, though, had backed the anti-Bouteflika protests which ultimately forced the former president to resign.

Khelil, who is a dual Algerian-US national, fled to the United States when he was charged with financial malfeasance, along with the head of Algeria's state oil company Sonatrach and many of its top executives.

While the Sonatrach officials were convicted, Khelil was cleared of charges that he had received "commissions" from Italian oil giant ENI for Algerian contract.

He returned to Algeria in 2016.

Algeria's supreme court on Wednesday said it had received "two prosecution briefs" against Khelil and "his accomplices", state news agency APS reported.

One brief regards a "violation" of laws which regulate capital transfers abroad, and the second was about "two contracts by the Sonatrach company with two foreign companies in violation of the law".

The reopening of investigations against Khelil comes a day after the head of Sonatrach, Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour, was fired and replaced on the orders of the country's interim president Abdelkader Bensalah.

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