Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Algeria’s auto industry tycoon sentenced to 16 years in prison for corruption


A former car industry boss who swiftly amassed riches under Algeria’s ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika was sentenced Wednesday to 16 years in prison on corruption charges.

In the country’s fourth major post-Bouteflika era corruption trial, Mahieddine Tahkout was convicted over “privileges, advantages and (access to) public markets” in violation of Algerian laws. Tahkout, who also served as a minister, held a number of industry concessions and ran an assembly plant of the giant South Korean manufacturer Hyundai.

A court in the capital’s Sidi Mhamed district also found him guilty of money laundering, along with his two brothers and a son, each handed seven-year jail terms. Defence lawyer Khaled Bourayou said two former premiers, Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, both of whom have already been slapped with heavy jail sentences in other graft trials, received 10-year terms.

Ouyahia and Sellal, not in court for the sentencing, were in hospital for unspecified medical reasons. Tahkout, who has been in detention since June 2019, was a small trader who made a fortune by building a bus company and winning concessions in towns and universities.

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On July 1, prominent tycoon Ali Haddad, a construction firm chief, was among several former Bouteflika allies handed heavy prison sentences on corruption charges. Ailing Bouteflika, who was Algeria’s longest-serving president, was forced to resign in April last year after losing the backing of the army amid enormous street protests against his decision to seek a fifth term.

Following his departure, authorities launched a string of graft investigations which have seen his powerful brother Said and two former intelligence chiefs jailed. While some have welcomed the trials of figures in his entourage, many fear they amount to little more than a power struggle between regime “clans”.

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