Five of Algeria's richest men arrested in anti-corruption probe

Five of Algeria's richest men arrested in anti-corruption probe
2 min read
22 April, 2019
Five Algerian billionaires have been arrested as part of an anti-corruption investigation.
Tycoon Issad Rebrab and four brothers from the Kouninef family have been arrested [Getty]

Five Algerian billionaires have been arrested as part of an anti-corruption investigation, some of them close to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, state TV reported on Monday

The five include tycoon Issad Rebrab, ranked the richest businessman in the major oil and natural gas-producing country who is especially active in the food and sugar refining business.

Four brothers from the wealthy Kouninef family were also detained.

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

The Kouninef family is close to ousted President Abdulaziz Bouteflika, who ruled the country for 20 years, but was forced to step down three weeks ago, ceding to pressure of weeks of demonstrations and the army’s demands.

The move came one week after Algeria's army chief, Lieutenant General Gaid Salah, said he expected members of the ruling elite in Algeria to be prosecuted for corruption.

State TV said on Saturday that an Algerian court has already summoned former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and current Finance Minister Mohamed Loukal, two close allies of the former president, in connection to an investigation into suspected misuse of public money.

Since Bouteflika was forced to resign on 2 April - after losing the support of Algeria's military - protesters have been insisting that regime insiders be excluded from the country's political process.

They have also demanded the removal of an entire elite that has governed Algeria since independence from France in 1962.

The head of the upper house Abdelkader Bensalah is currently acting as interim president for 90 days until a presidential election is held on 4 July.

On Friday, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the street demanding the resignation of Bensalah and other top officials.

Bensalah has invited civil society and political parties on Monday to discuss the transition to elections. However, numerous parties and activists said they would not take part.

The army, the most powerful institution in the country, has patiently monitored the mostly peaceful protests that at times have surged to hundreds of thousands of demonstrators.

Lieutenant General Gaid Salah said on 16 April that the military was considering all options to put an end to the political crisis and warned that "time is running out".