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Algeria: Madame Maya's trial unveils intriguing information

Algerian President, AbdelAziz Bouteflika [Wikipedia]
Former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 18 January 2018 [Wikipedia]

The ongoing trial of Nachinachi Zoulikha-Chafika (known as Madame Maya) on corruption charges has unveiled intriguing information. The defendant claims to be the secret daughter of former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Madame Maya's case also included Abdelghani Zaalane and Mohamed Ghazi, prosecuted respectively as ex-governors of Oran and Chlef, in addition to the former Director-General of National Security Abdelghani Hamel.

The charges relate to money laundering, influence peddling, granting undue advantages, squandering of public funds, incitement of public officials to grant undue benefits as well as the illegal transfer of foreign currency abroad.

According to local press reports, Madame Maya, born in 1955, convinced everyone that she was the president's secret illegitimate daughter, granting her access to many advantages, including exerting major influence over senior officials and businessmen.

READ: Algeria court jails MP, ex-minister in corruption cases

She also managed to acquire a luxurious residence with security staff.

Madame Maya's growing influence raised the concerns of President Bouteflika's brother Said, who feared that the affair would negatively affect the president.

Media reports conveyed that during the trial, Zoulikha-Chafika, who used to work as a seamstress and fabrics merchant, apparently did not speak Arabic nor the Algerian dialect, while claiming that she spoke only French.

The sources stated that when the judge confronted her regarding the value of her wealth, she felt dizzy and requested a bottle of water, in an attempt to avoid answering the question.

Madame Maya is accused of collecting a fortune estimated at tens of millions of dollars through unlawful means, in addition to acquiring several properties in a number of Algerian cities, and two apartments and a resort in Spain.

During the hearings of the other defendants, former minister and governor Ghazi denied the charges against him, insisting that Bouteflika's private secretary Mohamed Rougab introduced him to Madame Maya.

Ghazi confirmed that after the meeting, Madame Maya was granted a project to restore a forest park in the Chlef governorate, adding that Rougab asked him to help the woman's family.

Madame Maya also obtained a plot of land in the Oum Drou area in the same governorate.

Ghazi asserted that he was told that Madame Maya was the president's relative, denying that he even knew her real name.

He also confessed that at her request he contacted the governor of Oran, Abdelghani Zaalane, in order to settle investment files in favour of her relatives.

The former official indicated that he proceeded immediately in cancelling all the advantages granted to her in the Chlef governorate, once he realised that she was not related to the former president.

READ: Algeria appoints new anti-corruption Gendarmerie commander

As for Hamel, he stated that he met Madame Maya for the first time at the home of Ghazi, urging during his trial that he was a victim.

Hamel indicated that Ghazi asked him to install security cameras in the Moretti residence of Madame Maya. However, he denied issuing any instructions to send security officers to guard the house.

Zaalane, the former governor of Oran who later became minister of public works and transport, stuck to his earlier statements.

Zaalane maintained that he met Madame Maya in the corridors of the court, adding that in January 2017 when he was governor of Oran, he received a phone call from Ghazi who asked him to receive members of the former president's family and settle stalled investment files in their favour, as instructed by Bouteflika's private secretary Rougab.

The former governor of Oran reiterated that he received the former president's alleged relatives, namely, Belaid Abdel-Ghani and Mohamed Bin Aisha, who asked him to enable them to obtain contracts for industrial projects in the Tafraoui and Sidi Chami areas.

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