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Mauritania: Former president arrested amid graft probe

June 23, 2021

Mauritanian ex-leader Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was detained after failing to report to a judge. He faces corruption allegations from his time as president.

Former Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
The former Mauritanian leader left the office in 2019 after serving two five-year termsImage: Ludovic Marin/Pool Photo/AP/picture alliance

A judge in charge of the corruption case against former Mauritanian leader Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz ordered his incarceration, the ex-leader's lawyer confirmed on Wednesday.

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, 64, was taken into custody on Tuesday evening after failing to fulfill the requirements of his judicial supervision.

One of his lawyers, Mohameden Ichidou, confirmed the arrest, saying the former leader did not appear before a judge last Friday and Sunday.

He said Abdel Aziz had stopped going to see the judge because each time he went, he was followed by civilians and police who harassed and threatened him.

Abdel Aziz facing corruption claims

The former leader left the office in 2019 after serving two five-year terms.

He was succeeded by his former right-hand man and retired Mauritanian Army general Mohamed Ould Ghazouani.

Mauritania elects new president

Abdel Aziz was charged on corruption charges in March and placed under house arrest in May, following a parliamentary investigation into suspected graft during his administration.

His son-in-law, two former prime ministers and several businessmen were also charged for corruption, money laundering, and illicit enrichment.

A year-long investigation was launched by parliament into actions undertaken by Abdel Aziz's administration.

The probe investigated his government's handling of oil revenue, the sale of state property, the creation of a publicly owned food supply company and the activities of a Chinese fishing firm.

A state prosecutor involved with the investigation in March said cash and assets worth nearly €96 million ($115 million) had been seized.

Rose to power through a coup

Abdel Aziz, a former general, came to power in the vast desert country during a coup in 2008.

He was seen as an important ally of the Western powers in the fight against militant extremists in the Sahel region.

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz at a press conference in 2018
The former leader was charged in March with corruption, money laundering, and illicit enrichmentImage: Getty Images/AFP/A. Elhadj

The former leader denies the corruption allegations against him, saying he is being persecuted in a bid to keep him out of politics.

Former Prime Minister Ismail Ould Cheikh Sidiya and his entire government resigned amid the parliamentary investigation last year.

on/sms (Reuters/AFP)