In early April of this year Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned from office after ruling for roughly 20 years. Bouteflika’s resignation is reportedly a result of peaceful protests and pressure from Algerian military leaders in response to Bouteflika’s announcement that he would be seeking a fifth presidential term. The protests in Algeria have been ongoing since mid-February 2019, and more recently have been occurring on a weekly basis.
The protesters are now calling for the establishment of transitional authorities that would oversee the country’s elections (the next presidential election is schedule for July 4, 2019) and reviews of the Algerian constitution. Protesters also call for the departure of government officials associated with Bouteflika’s administration as they are perceived by the Algerian population as corrupt, having abused their political powers and greatly misused public funding.
Following Bouteflika’s resignation, various government officials (including former ministers) and businessmen are described in media as being summoned for questioning in nationwide corruption probes pertaining to Bouteflika’s administration. Algerian Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah (chief of the Algerian Army) has indicated that the country’s ruling elite who have participated in corrupt activities will be prosecuted.
Among the individuals arrested and / or questioned as part of several corruption probes in Algeria are five Algerian billionaires. Notably, the five billionaires appear to support opposing political factions within Alegria. Four of the billionaires are members of the Kouninef family (Reda, Abdelkader, Karim, and Tarek) and are described in media as part of Bouteflika’s “inner circle” and active in the energy and agribusiness sectors. The fifth arrested billionaire, Issad Rebrad, has been described as an outspoken critic of Bouteflika’s administration and is the founder and chairman of one of Algeria’s largest private companies; Rebrad is also reportedly the owner of a newspaper that has been critical of Bouteflika and opposed his re-election in 2014.
At Smith Brandon International we will be monitoring further developments in Algeria so that we can keep our clients up to date and provide them with the best political risk assessments possible. Of particular interest will be the effect of attempts to root out corruption on the local and regional business environment.