Poaching, black market and gold bars: the scandal shaking Algeria

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The gold fever has taken hold of Algeria. It was not provoked by the new encouragements of the government to go prospecting for gold in the extreme south of Algeria, but by the incredible admission, before the judges, of a former Prime Minister of the Bouteflika era.

Prosecuted and already sentenced to fifteen years in prison for, in particular, “granting undue privileges”, “abuse of office”, “conflicts of interest” and “money laundering”, the former Prime Minister and former director cabinet of the deposed president, Ahmed Ouyahia, returned last Saturday to the court in Algiers for yet another case, that of the car manufacturers.

This trial involves senior state officials and oligarchs who have embarked on the assembly of cars thanks, reproaches the justice, to their connections with political leaders.

Sixty gold bars

During this trial, which also addressed the case of the occult financing of the electoral campaign of the aborted presidential election of April 2019, Saturday, January 9, Ahmed Ouyahia made a shattering revelation on the origin of his private funds.

The judge wants to know the origin of the fortune of the former Prime Minister stored in his accounts in Algeria, some 700 million dinars (about 4.3 million euros). Denying that this money comes from corruption and the oligarchs, Ahmed Ouyahia had, in a previous trial, contented himself with speaking of “gifts from friends”.

But this Saturday, change of defense line.

Ouyahia admits: “During the hunting periods organized by the Presidency, I received these gifts like the rest of the officials. […] They offered us [entre 2014 et 2018] more than 60 gold bars. He was talking about the Gulf emirs who had come, since the early 2000s, to hunt bustard and gazelle in the Algerian desert, species protected in Algeria!

The judge is not at the end of his surprise. Ouyahia goes on to say that, since the Bank of Algeria (central bank) refused to buy it from him, he sold his gold bars … on the black market, collecting the sum of 350 million dinars (i.e. 2.1 million euros) which he placed in his private accounts.

The former Prime Minister then explained to the judge “his silence, during the first two trials, on these gracious donations, for the sake of not creating diplomatic friction with the Gulf countries concerned by his revelations ”.

On social networks, in the Algerian street and in the media, these revelations have the effect of a bomb and the former manager, renamed “Or-Yahia” by Internet users, suffered the wrath of an opinion deeply shocked by the actions of a whole caste of officials.

Other officials involved

“What Ouyahia has just said will shed more light on our lantern. This will strengthen us in the idea that the country was effectively ruled by bandits who were the real masters of the black market, almost official, in gold and foreign currencies, ”comments political scientist Mohamed Hennad.

Indeed, these confessions also targeted other senior officials of the State since Ouyahia said to have received these “gifts” like “other officials”. Who ?

El Watan quotes a few: “Firstly, the deposed president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who authorized the dignitaries of the Gulf monarchies to hunt bustards and gazelles, species protected by law and therefore prohibited from capture. […] The head of the executive, then Abdelmalek Sellal, but also many executives of the presidency, ministers, senior army officials, all involved in the logistics of these organized poaching operations and some of whom are still in post . ”

For the environmental specialist of the same daily, Slim Sadki, the gold “fortune” of Ouyahia is “a treasure amassed in a massacre which took place for twenty years out of sight, despite the alerts of citizens relayed in the press […] A massacre almost similar to that of the American bison […] or that of elephants and rhinos for the money it brings ”.

This poaching would not have been possible without the deep friendships of ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika with the emirs of the Gulf. As a reminder, in the 1980s he offered himself a golden exile in the United Arab Emirates, all expenses paid by his close friend the Emir Zayed ben Sultan al-Nahyan.

A blackmail strategy?

But beyond the indignation and the general outcry, the question that arises is the following: will justice be looking into this new case? Indeed, the law against corruption punishes any official of the State who “accepts directly or indirectly from a person a gift or any undue advantage likely to be able to influence the treatment of a procedure or a transaction related to his functions. “, remember El Watan.

For the Twala news site, Ouyahia seems to have bet on the vagueness of this provision: he received “gifts”, yes, but not to “influence the treatment of a procedure or a transaction related to his functions. “.

But this risk-taking in order to change the line of defense, justifying its bank funds while trying to distance itself from the incriminated oligarchs, caused such a shock wave in the public opinion that it could complicate Ouyahia’s business. .

Other observers evoke another reading of the former prime minister’s defense strategy: by speaking of the fact that other officials have also received these famous gold bars, isn’t Ouyahia blackmailing him? senior officials of the State (former or in office), not yet concerned by the justice system, in order to improve its lot?


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