Mauritania holds top businessmen in bank fraud case
Mauritanian authorities detained three top businessmen charged with embezzling millions of euros of public funds.
Mauritanian authorities detained three top businessmen charged with embezzling millions of euros of public funds late on Wednesday in a case that has sparked new political tensions in the desert state.
The three, who protest their innocence, have links to the Smassid tribe around former ruler Maaouiya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya which held sway under his two-decade rule and up to a 2008 coup by the current president, General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.
National Bank of Mauritania director Mohamed Ould Noueiguedh, Islamic Bank of Mauritania owner Chrif Ould Abdalahi and entrepreneur Abdou Maham all stand charged with embezzling money from the central bank between 2001-02.
Security forces used teargas to push back members of their clans and other supporters outside the courthouse as they were taken before the public prosecutor to hear the charges.
"This affair is clear-cut and covers some 14 billion ouguiya (36 million euros) of profit to individuals ... who provided not a single service to the population and this sum must absolutely be recuperated," Aziz said of the case earlier this week.
Aziz, a member of the Oulad Besbaa tribe, promised to crack down on corruption ahead of a July election victory which brought him international legitimacy after his coup despite complaints of poll-rigging by opponents.
"(Aziz) wants to manage the fight against corruption all by himself to be able to use it against his opponents," said Mohammed Ould Maouloud of the opposition UPF party.
"In Africa these days the fight against corruption is a fig leaf for backstepping on democracy," he said.
Former central bank chief Sid El Moctar Ould Nagi, in charge of the institution at the time of the alleged embezzlement, was charged last week with fraud and abuse of public money.
Reuters Last Mod: 10 Aralık 2009, 22:05