Algeria car tycoon associates probed for graft: prosecutor

Of 56 persons of interest in the case, 45 are under judicial investigation, the Algiers prosecutor said in a statement. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 June 2019

Algeria car tycoon associates probed for graft: prosecutor

ALGIERS: A prosecutor said Tuesday that 45 people including senior officials connected to Algerian automobile tycoon Mahieddine Tahkout are under investigation for corruption and money laundering.
Of 56 persons of interest in the case, 45 are under judicial investigation, the Algiers prosecutor said in a statement broadcast by state television.
The investigating judge had “decided to place 19 of the accused in provisional detention and to conditionally release seven” suspects, the statement said.
The 19 others under investigation remained free without restrictions, it added.
A lawyer for Tahkout told AFP on Monday that the tycoon had been placed in provisional detention on corruption allegations.
Tahkout is a close associate of longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced to step down in April after weeks of mass protests.
Demonstrations have continued since the ailing president stepped down, as protesters demand that regime insiders also exit as a precursor to independent institutions being set up.
Thousands of students and teachers took to the streets of the capital on Tuesday, rejecting dialogue with interim President Abdelkader Bensalah.
Tahkout’s business group owns one of Algeria’s biggest automobile dealerships.
Among those accused alongside Tahkout are his son and two of his brothers, 38 civil servants and three employees of Tahkout’s businesses, according to the prosecutor.
The 45 under investigation are being probed for money laundering, concealing the illicit transfer of goods obtained through corruption, and squandering public money.
Among the remaining 11 persons of interest are a former prime minister, two former ministers and a current minister, the statement said, without giving names.
The positions occupied by the 11 at the time of the alleged events means they enjoy immunity, but their cases have been sent to the public prosecutor to decide on further action.
The justice ministry said Monday that Algeria’s upper house would vote on June 19 on whether to lift the parliamentary immunity of two Bouteflika-era ministers — Said Barkat and Djamel Ould Abbes.
Several prominent politicians and businessmen linked to Bouteflika have been detained or questioned in connection with corruption since the president was forced to step down after two decades in power.


Lebanon’s Aoun vows to tend to economic, financial reforms

Updated 1 min 12 sec ago

Lebanon’s Aoun vows to tend to economic, financial reforms

  • Aoun said this aimed “to guarantee political stability in cabinet and outside it and to secure the greatest amount of productivity”
  • He expected “the implementation path” to begin “with the start of October"

BEIRUT: Lebanon is expected to begin implementing in October a set of economic and financial measures agreed by its top leadership that will boost economic growth, President Michel Aoun said on Sunday, vowing that he would to tend to this himself.
He was referring to decisions taken at a top-level meeting earlier this month with the aim of reviving an economy that has been growing slowly for years and is struggling with one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
After the Aug. 9 meeting, Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri said agreed steps included finishing the 2020 budget on time, drawing up a plan to start $3.3 billion of projects approved by parliament, full implementation of a power sector reform plan, and laws to fight tax evasion and regulate public tenders.
“I will personally tend to the implementation path of the decisions of the financial and economic meeting” in cooperation with Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and other parties in government, Aoun said.
In written comments to Reuters, Aoun said this aimed “to guarantee political stability in cabinet and outside it and to secure the greatest amount of productivity,” including in the implementation of the 2019 budget and its reforms.
Aoun said he expected “the implementation path” to begin “with the start of October after the conclusion of the current preparations ... which will lead to lifting of the growth rates, reflecting positively on the economic and financial situations.”
After years of backsliding on economic reform, the impetus to act has grown due to economic stagnation and a slowdown in the flow of dollars into Lebanon’s banks from abroad. Lebanon has depended on such flows from its diaspora to finance the current account and the state budget deficits.
Foreign governments and donor institutions last year pledged $11 billion in financing to Lebanon for major infrastructure at the so-called Cedre conference in Paris, on condition that it carries out reforms.
Measures to reduce the budget deficit and reform the power sector, which bleeds public funds while inflicting daily power cuts on Lebanese, are seen as two vital tests of the government’s ability to reform.
The International Monetary Fund said in July this year’s deficit is likely to be well above a targeted 7.6% of national output.
It said the power reform plan and a budget to reduce the deficit were “very welcome first steps” and “further substantial fiscal adjustment and structural reforms” were needed.
Aoun said work was underway to approve the 2020 budget in the constitutional timeframe.
It would include “new, resolute reforms” agreed at the Aug. 9 meeting to reduce the power sector deficit, improve tax collection and fight customs and tax evasion.
Aoun also said frameworks must be put in place for implementing a plan drawn up by management consulting firm McKinsey for revamping the economy and this should coincide with the start of projects outlined at the Cedre conference.