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Top Algerian Businessman and Bouteflika Ally Jailed for 6 Months

Top Algerian Businessman and Bouteflika Ally Jailed for 6 Months

Monday, 17 June, 2019 - 18:00
Algerian businessman Ali Haddad. (Getty Images)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Ali Haddad, a key backer of Algeria's former leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika and one of the country's top businessmen, was sentenced to jail on Monday for the possession of two passports, state television said,

He was arrested in late March on the border with Tunisia, in possession of two passports and undeclared currency, days before Bouteflika resigned in the face of mass protests.

He was found guilty of the "unjustified procurement of administrative documents" and also fined 50,000 dinars ($420), state television reported.

Haddad, who owns Algeria's largest private construction company, is the first high-profile figure with ties to Bouteflika to be jailed since the president stepped down.

Described by Forbes as one of Algeria's wealthiest entrepreneurs, Haddad is widely perceived to have used his links to Bouteflika to build his business empire.

The businessman had denied breaking the law and said he obtained his second passport legally after seeking an interview with then prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal.

The ex-premier and Haddad are among many businessmen and former politicians caught up in a separate anti-corruption investigation launched since the president stepped down.

Earlier this month Haddad's lawyer, Khaled Bourayou, decried a "political trial" and told journalists the passport case had no legal basis.

The sentence is significantly lower than the 18 months term and fine of 100,000 dinars requested by the prosecutor.

Hassane Boualem, then director of titles and secure documents at the interior ministry, was given a two-month suspended sentence and fined 20,000 for issuing Haddad's second passport in 2016.

He told the court he was following the orders of his superiors -- interior ministry head Hocine Mazouz, Sellal and Algeria's current premier Noureddine Bedoui -- who were not investigated over the affair.

Separately, an Algerian court on Monday ordered the detention of Mourad Eulmi, head of family-owned firm SOVAC that is a partner of Germany’s Volkswagen AG, on suspicion of corruption, state television reported.

Eulmi was taken into custody on suspicion of “getting illegal privileges and smuggling capital abroad,” state TV said, pending completion of an investigation that will determine whether he is formally charged and put on trial.

In 2016 SOVAC and Volkswagen signed a $170 million deal for a joint venture, with SOVAC holding a majority stake, to assemble vehicles in the town of Relizane under the Volkswagen, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, SEAT and Skoda brands.

VW has not commented on the allegations against its Algerian partner.

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