Means Associates, London, 09 May 2023

On 2 May the Algiers Appeal Court upheld heavy prison sentences originally passed against: former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s younger brother, Saïd Bouteflika (12 years); and the oligarchs Ali Haddad (12 years), Ahmed Mazouz (12 years) and Mahieddine Tahkout (15 years).

Saïd Bouteflika addressed the court by video-link from Sid Echeikh prison in El Bayadh where he is detained. He called on the court to grant him justice and to ‘save Algeria’, and added that ‘justice is sick with cancer’ and that Algeria is therefore ‘in danger.’ He told the court that his personal life was ‘built on principles and not on the love of money,’ and added that the public image of him as a corrupt man was not befitting. We should add that, while Saïd ended up more or less running the Presidency for his ailing brother, he began life as a teacher and a trade unionist and lived a modest life style.

His diagnosis of the country’s judicial system is correct. Algeria is in danger because of the permanent instrumentalisation of state institutions, notably Justice, for political point scoring and purely personal agendas. The various court records of Said Bouteflika illustrates this unpalatable truth.

In the recriminatory actions against the family’s clan, Bouteflika has been sentenced twice in very serious corruption cases: the first in June 2022 to eight years and the second on 8 February 2023 to 12 years, with the latter being confirmed by the appeal court last week.

Saïd Bouteflika has been engulfed in rumours that he amassed an immense fortune during the 20 long years of his brother’s presidency. If that was the case, which is looking increasingly doubtful, the legal proceedings initiated against him have not produced any convincing proof. The court records seem to reveal that he only had two apartments in Algiers and a foreign currency account containing €36,000. There is no evidence that he acquired any other property, amassed a major fortune, or owned any overseas property.

It is beginning to look as if the many rumours of Saïd Bouteflika’s colossal fortune — embellished and fanned by his protagonists and the instrumentalised judicial system — were unfounded and that he was fixated by power rather than money.

With so many of politicians and generals from the eras of President Bouteflika and then General Ahmed Gaïd Salah now languishing in prison, the judicial manipulations around the supposed fortune of Saïd Bouteflika appear to have been nothing more than orchestrated manoeuvres to perpetrate a terrible political revenge.