Algerian ex-PM Sellal Arrested Over Graft Allegation, Says State TV

Abdelmalek Sellal is under investigation over 'dissipation of public funds'; former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia also detained for alleged corruption

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President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's then-campaign manager, Abdelmalek Sellal, delivers a speech to supporters in Algiers,  April 13, 2014
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's then-campaign manager, Abdelmalek Sellal, delivers a speech to supporters in Algiers, April 13, 2014 Credit: Sidali Djarboub,AP

Algeria's supreme court on Thursday remanded ex-prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal in custody over graft allegations, state TV said, in a continuing crackdown on alleged corruption and cronyism among associates of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Sellal is one of the closest Bouteflika associates to be detained since mass protests broke out in February, demanding the prosecution of people that protesters regarded as corrupt as well as sweeping democratic change.

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Sellal, who left office in a May 2017 cabinet reshuffle after serving as premier and Bouteflika's campaign manager several times, is under investigation over "dissipation of public funds," state television said.

His lawyer was not immediately available for comment.

Former trade minister Amara Benyounes, who served under Sellal from April 2014 to July 2015, appeared before the supreme court in a corruption case, state television said, without giving details.

Benyounes is also leader of the pro-government party the Algerian Popular Movement.

State television also said police had arrested Mourad Eulmi, head of the private firm SOVAC, a partner of Germany's Volkswagen AG, at a car assembly plant in the western province of Relizane in connection with "corruption cases." It did not elaborate. Volkswagen declined to comment.

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

On Wednesday, the supreme court had ordered the detention of another former prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, for alleged involvement in corruption, including "awarding illegal privileges and dissipation of public funds."

A judge at the supreme court confiscated the passport of former transport and public works minister Abdelghani Zaalane and ordered him to show up at the court once a month, state TV reported on Thursday, after saying on Wednesday he was detained.

Bouteflika stepped down on April 2 under pressure from the army, which is now the main decision-maker. Its chief of staff, Ahmed Gaed Salah, has urged the courts to speed up prosecution of people suspected of involvement in corruption.

Bouteflika's youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs have been placed in custody by a military judge for "harming the army's authority and plotting against state authority," according to state television.

Several prominent businessmen, some of them close to Bouteflika, have been detained pending trial.

Protesters are now seeking the departure of Interim President Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, both seen as part of the elite that has ruled Algeria since independence from France in 1962.

Authorities have postponed a presidential election previously planned for July 4, citing a lack of candidates. No new date has been set for the vote.