Algeria’s wealthiest businessman and four other billionaires close to former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika were arrested as part of a nation-wide anti-corruption investigation, state TV reported Monday.
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The five men are Issad Rebrab, founder and chairman of Cevital, Algeria's biggest privately held company; alongside the four Kouninef brothers Reda, Abdelkader, Karim, and Tarek, who were part of Bouteflika’s inner circle. They will face charges from the general prosecutor’s office in Algiers.
Rebrad, who also owns the newspaper Liberte daily, is being investigated mainly over “false statements regarding the movement of capital from and to abroad, inflating equipment import bills and importing used equipment”, according to state TV.
While Bouteflika’s inner circle is also being investigated. An Algerian court has already summoned former prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia and current Finance Minister Mohamed Loukal, two close associates, for suspected misuse of public money.
This move came after army chief Lieutenant General Gaid Salah said last week he expected members of the ruling elite, which he referred to as “the gang”, to be prosecuted for fraud. “The army will meet the people’s demands,” said Salah, addressing officers and soldiers at a military base, adding that “the judiciary has recovered its prerogative and can work freely.”
On Feb. 22, Algerians took to the streets against what has been described as the ruling elite's "fortress", composed of veterans of the 1962 war of independence against France, ruling party figures, businessmen, army and labor unions. All seen as “corrupt” by Algeria’s new generations that press for political change in the African nation.
The nation-wide demonstrations resulted in the resignation of former President Bouteflika who had been in power for over 20 years. He was replaced by interim president Abdelkader Bensalah, until elections are held on July 4.