Algeria’s ex-industry minister detained over alleged corruption

Algeria’s supreme court placed former industry minister Youcef Yousfi in custody over alleged corruption. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 July 2019

Algeria’s ex-industry minister detained over alleged corruption

  • Yousfi became the latest senior official to be detained in anti-corruption investigations since protests erupted earlier this year
  • His legal representative was not immediately available for comment

ALGIERS: Algeria's supreme court on Wednesday placed former industry minister Youcef Yousfi in custody over alleged corruption, state television reported.
Yousfi became the latest senior official to be detained in anti-corruption investigations since protests erupted earlier this year demanding the prosecution of people seen by demonstrators as corrupt, as well as the removal of the long-ruling elite.
Protesters and the military forced President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign on April 2, ending his 20 years in power. But protests have continued to press demands for the departure of others in the old guard that has dominated the oil- and gas-exporting country since independence from France in 1962.
Yousfi, who served as industry minister from August 2017 to March 2019, is accused of "dissipation of public funds and awarding illegal privileges", state television reported, without providing details.
His legal representative was not immediately available for comment.
The supreme court last month ordered the detention of other senior officials including former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal for "dissipation of public funds".
The military is now the main decision-maker, and its chief of staff, Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah, has repeatedly pledged to help the judiciary investigate corruption cases.
Protesters are now seeking the resignation of interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, whom they see as close to Bouteflika.
The government has postponed a presidential election previously planned for July 4, citing a lack of candidates. No new date has been set for the vote.
Bensalah last week called on political parties and national figures to take part in an "inclusive dialogue" to prepare for elections, but some opposition leaders rejected the offer.


Lebanon PM says new cabinet faces ‘catastrophe’

Updated 32 min 51 sec ago

Lebanon PM says new cabinet faces ‘catastrophe’

  • Diab vowed to meet demands from the street but demonstrators were unconvinced
  • He said the government just unveiled was a technocratic one

BEIRUT: Lebanon faces a ‘catastrophe’, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said Wednesday after his newly unveiled cabinet held its first meeting to tackle the twin challenges of a tenacious protest movement and a nosediving economy.
Hassan Diab, who replaced Saad Hariri as prime minister, vowed to meet the demands from the street but demonstrators were unconvinced and scuffled with police overnight.
The 61-year-old academic, was thrown in at the deep end for his first experience on the political big stage and admitted that the situation he inherited was desperate.
“Today we are in a financial, economic and social dead end,” he said in remarks read by a government official after the new cabinet’s inaugural meeting in Beirut.
“We are facing a catastrophe,” he said.
“Government of last resort,” was the headline on the front page of Al-Akhbar, a daily newspaper close to the powerful Hezbollah movement that gave its blessing to Diab’s designation last month.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun (R) heads the first meeting of Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s (L) newly constituted government at the presidential palace in Baabda east of capital Beirut on Jan. 22, 2020. (AFP)

Western sanctions on the Iranian-backed organization are stacking up and economists have argued the new government might struggle to secure the aid it so badly needs.
But French President Emmanuel Macron, one of the first leaders to react to the formation of the new government, said he would “do everything, during this deep crisis that they are going through, to help.”
Hezbollah and its allies dominated the talks that produced the new line-up, from which outgoing premier Saad Hariri and some of his allies were absent.
The millionaire was one of the symbols of the kind of hereditary and sectarian-driven politics that protesters who have been in the streets since mid-October want to end.
He and his government resigned less than two weeks into the non-sectarian protests demanding the complete overhaul of the political system and celebrating the emergence of a new national civic identity.
Protesters from across Lebanon’s geographical and confessional divides had demanded a cabinet of independent technocrats as a first step to root out endemic government corruption and incompetence.

Lebanon’s new Prime Minister Hassan Diab (L) reviews the honor guard upon his arrival at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut, for the inaugural meeting for the newly formed government. (Dalati Nohra/Handout via AFP)

Diab is a career academic from the prestigious American University of Beirut and he insisted Tuesday in his first comments that the government just unveiled was a technocratic one.
“This is a government that represents the aspirations of the demonstrators who have been mobilized nationwide for more than three months,” he said.
Yet the horsetrading between traditional political factions during lengthy government formation talks was all too familiar to many Lebanese who met the breakthrough with distrust at best.
“Instead of the corrupt politicians, we got the corrupt politicians’ friends,” said Ahmad Zaid, a 21-year-old student who joined a few hundred protesters in central Beirut after the announcement.
Clusters of demonstrators burned tires and briefly blocked roads to express their displeasure at the new line-up but clashes with riot police were on a smaller scale than weekend violence that left dozens wounded.
Similar rallies took place in Tripoli — a hotbed of the protest movement — in Sidon, Byblos and other cities.
The new cabinet is mostly made up of new faces, many of them academics and former ministry advisers.

Lebanon ended a painful wait by unveiling a new cabinet line-up, but the government was promptly scorned by protesters and faces the Herculean task of saving a collapsing economy. (AFP)

It comprises 20 ministers and among its six women is Zeina Akar, Lebanon’s first-ever female defense minister.
To downsize the cabinet, some portfolios were merged, resulting in at times baffling combinations such as a single ministry for culture and agriculture.
Anger at what protesters see as a kleptocratic oligarchy was initially fueled by youth unemployment that stands at more than 30 percent and the abysmal delivery of public services such as water and electricity.
The long-brewing discontent was compounded by fears of a total economic collapse in recent weeks, with a liquidity crunch leading banks to impose crippling capital controls.
Lebanon has one of the world’s highest debt-to-GDP ratios and economists have argued it is hard to see how the near bankrupt country could repay its foreign debt.
“Regarding the economic situation, I repeat that this is one of our priorities,” Diab said Tuesday night.

A new Cabinet was announced in crisis-hit Lebanon late Tuesday, breaking a months-long impasse amid mass protests against the country’s ruling elite and a crippling financial crisis, but demonstrations and violence continued. (Dalati Nohra/Lebanese Government via AP)

“We need to be given a little time,” he added.
A looming default on Lebanon’s debt, which has been steadily downgraded deeper into junk status by rating agencies, has sent the dollar soaring on the parallel exchange market.
In a country where many transactions are carried out in dollars and most goods are imported, consumers and businesses alike have been hit hard by the national currency’s free fall.
Every morning, queues of people hoping to withdraw their weekly cap of 100 or 200 dollars form outside banks.