The extraordinary circumstances of the president’s son, Khaled Tebboune, and his very brief return to Sonatrach are just coming to light. In early June he was appointed by Sonatrach’s CEO Toufik Hakkar to a prestigious position similar to that of his Chief of Staff. Three days later, however, he vanished with no clear reason as to why he had seemingly abandoned his privileged new position. After speculation that he had resigned or simply ‘gone walkabout’ it now appears that an angry President Abdelmajid Tebboune had stepped in and ordered his son to turn down Hakkar’s bizarre and potentially scandalous offer.
This was not Khaled Tebboune’s first employment at Sonatrach. Before his imprisonment in 2018 he had worked for more than ten years as a simple deputy director in the corporation’s Associations division which manages partnerships and groupings with foreign companies.
In June 2018, however, he was imprisoned for ‘influence peddling’, ‘abuse of office’, ‘receipt of undue gifts’ and ‘corruption’ in the case of Kamel Chikhi. The infamous meat importer and main real estate magnate was at the centre of the cocaine scandal which involved 701 kgs of cocaine being seized in Oran’s port. Tebboune’s role and involvement in the cocaine scandal never came to public attention. He was suddenly released in February 2020 following his acquittal for unknown reasons although it is widely assumed that pressure was brought to bear on the court because he is the president’s son.
After his contentious acquittal, Khaled Tebboune did not resume his employment at Sonatrach until Hakkar’s very dubious job offer in June 2022. The latter was clearly trying to make a big political statement by employing the president’s son as his nominal chief of staff. Tebboune was installed on the executives’ tenth floor of Sonatrach’s General Management’s chic offices in Hydra in Algiers. He was also lavished with several luxury privileges that are normally reserved for Sonatrach’s most experienced or brilliant executives.
Our understanding is that Khaled was called to order by his father who was reportedly extremely angry at how Hakkar and his wife — who has a senior role in Sonatrach’s HR department — had begun to openly instrumentalise his son’s appointment by granting him all possible and imaginable preferential treatment. Hakkar and his clan were reportedly moving at breakneck speed in exploiting the appointment to strengthen their hold on Sonatrach’s administration.
Whether President Tebboune acted through embarrassment or principle is a matter of conjecture. What is becoming clearer by the day is that Sonatrach will continue to be mired in corruption and scandal until Hakkar is replaced.This excerpt is taken from Algeria Politics & Security, our weekly intelligence report on Algeria. Click here to receive a free sample copy.