Algeria's crackdown on corruption targets senior officials

The Algerian Supreme Court on Wednesday sent to prison former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia.

The move is part of an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign in the history of this North African nation that has been witnessing continuing popular protests since Feb. 22 to claim radical changes and trial of figures who served under ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

On Wednesday, Ouyahia has been sent to provisional prison, while former minister of public works and transport, Abdelghani Zaalane, has been placed under judicial probation pending investigation.

These two former senior officials are accused of squandering public funds while providing illegal privileges to specified businessmen, including former head of Employers Forum (FCE) and CEO of construction and public works group ETRHB, Ali Haddad.

The indictment list also includes the Kouninef brothers, who own a large construction group named KouGC, and Mahieddine Tahkout, CEO of an auto assembly and student transportation group.

Haddad, Kouninef brothers and Tahkout, in addition to billionaire Issad Rebrab, CEO of the largest private group in Algeria, Cevital, have all been sent to investigative custody so far.

The Algerian justice has accelerated the pace of prosecutions, given that a group of 12 former senior government officials are also due to be tried for violations, squandering of public funds, and corruption while they were serving on public posts.

This large-scale anti-corruption operation comes amidst popular protests denouncing the country's poor governance and money laundering, demanding that the people involved be brought to justice.

High-ranking army officers and prominent politicians are behind bars, including Said Bouteflika, brother of ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, two former intelligence chiefs, namely Mohamed Mediene and Athmane Tartag, as well as General Secretary of the Workers Party (left-wing opposition), Louisa Hanoune, who are charged by the military court with "attacking the authority of the army and conspiring against the authority of the state."