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Algeria: ex-CEO of Sonatrach given lengthy prison sentence in corruption case

Former CEO of Sonatrach Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour in Tebessa (Algeria) on November 26, 2018 [Billal Bensalem/NurPhoto via Getty Images]
Former CEO of Sonatrach Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour in Tebessa (Algeria) on November 26, 2018 [Billal Bensalem/NurPhoto via Getty Images]

The Sidi M'Hamed Court of First Instance in Algiers has sentenced the former CEO of the Sonatrach oil company, Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour, to 15 years enforceable imprisonment and a fine of one million Algerian dinars ($7,200) after he was found guilty of buying an Italian oil refinery at an over-exaggerated price, Al-Quds Al-Arabi has reported. According to former Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad, this was a major corruption case.

The court also sentenced his son, Nassim, to ten years imprisonment and fined him three million dinars. An international arrest warrant was issued for him. The main defendant's wife, Anisa Oabdussalam, was sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of one million dinars.

Prison sentences of between three and seven years were issued to other defendants in the same case. Properties and funds have also been confiscated.

Algeria's Public Prosecution had requested an 18-year prison sentence for Ould Kaddour. During the trial, he said in his defence that the refinery purchase deal was made with the knowledge of the higher authorities in the country and that it was concluded according to the strategy of limiting fuel imports from Europe because Algeria is an oil producer. This happened, he explained, because Algeria was unable to refine the necessary quantities to meet the national need for fuel at that time.

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Ould Kaddour also emphasised that the Augusta refinery was a profitable deal for Algeria, as evidenced by the fact that it achieved revenue of $400 million over the past year. He confirmed that the money and jewellery found by investigators were the result of his work, not from any involvement in corruption.

Since leaving office in 2019, Ould Kaddour was a fugitive until his arrest in August last year in the UAE while en route to Oman. An international arrest warrant was used to detain him.

The initial value of the refinery's purchase deal was $700 million, but it rose to $2 billion. The increase was justified by Ould Kaddour as operating expenses, spare parts, certificates of environmental conformity and customs bonds. However, the Public Prosecution objected to this, and said that the increase was unjustified and confirmed that the then CEO of Sonatrach had acted on his own without taking into account the objections to the deal due to sections of the refinery being more than fifty years old.

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