The Algerian regime’s silence on the UAE

Algeria

Published on Tuesday 21 May 2024 Back to articles

644 Algerians illegally purchased 972 properties in Dubai

Since 6 May, when Algeria warned that it would cancel gas exports to Spain’s Naturgy if its shares were sold to another company — without mentioning the Abu Dhabi’s state-owned TAQA by name — there has been no further public statements from Algiers or the UAE. Naturgy said on 7 May that its gas supply contracts with Algeria do not include any clauses that would be affected by changes to its shareholding structure, while Spanish media reports suggest that Madrid and Naturgy are worried by developments. The company’s response confirms our own warning that Algeria could be dragged into very costly international arbitration if it goes ahead with its threat (Algeria Politics & Security – 14.05.24).

Given the possible repercussions, the obvious question is why it took Algeria 19 days to respond to such a crucial and potentially threatening state of affairs. Algeria Politics & Security – 30.04.24 suggested that it is fearful of directly attacking the UAE for fear of jeopardising the substantial interests that many senior regime members are still believed to have in the UAE. Under domestic legislation, however, any Algerian resident owning property abroad, is breaking the law.

This week confirmation of our suspicions came from the Washington-based Centre for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS) think-tank which studies international crimes and conflicts. Its Dubai Unlocked investigation into the ownership of real estate was released to a consortium of 25 journalists in 19 countries to facilitate their independent investigations. The data, leaked from the Dubai Land Administration, lists the owners of hundreds of thousands of properties in 2020-2022. It is limited to Dubai and excludes Abu Dhabi, where many Algerians, including members of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s family, bought properties and used them to store state treasures stolen from the Presidential Palace.

According to the C4ADS data, 644 Algerians illegally purchased 972 properties in Dubai for more than US$620 million but the total figures are undoubtedly higher. Algerian journalists have already been able to identify several prominent members of the regime. Most made their fortunes in the Bouteflika era but some are prominent members of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s entourage. 

The Bouteflika era figures include:

  • Mohamed Mokeddem (a.k.a. Anis Rahmani), the former Département du renseignement et de la sécurité (DRS) collaborator and boss of the private-sector Ennahar media group, who was sentenced to ten years imprisonment in June 2022;
  • Omar Benhamadi, owner of the Groupe Condor, who was sentenced to five years imprisonment in late 2021, for money laundering, abuse of office and secret financing of political parties;
  • Abdeslam Bouchouareb, who served as a Minister of Industry and Mines in the Bouteflika era and was named in the Panama Papers, but who fled the country before being sentenced in absentia in 2020 to 20 years imprisonment for multiple corruption charges;
  • Nadjet Betchine, daughter of Major General Mohamed Betchine (1934-2022). The latter was a media baron, former head of the DRS, and security advisor to President Liamine Zeroual. He was eventually disgraced and forced to resign by General Mohamed ‘Toufik’ Mediène who was Betchine’s replacement as DRS head;
  • Nacim Ould Kaddour, who is eldest son of Sonatrach’s 2017-2019 CEO, Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour, who was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 2022, despite having already taken the rap for high-level regime corruption in the notorious Brown & Root Condor scandal; and
  • Kamel Djoudi, the former CEO of the Imetal Groupe. In 2016 it joined forces with the UAE’s Emarat Dzayer group, headed by Ahmed Hasan Abdul Qaher al-Sheebani, to create a new US$1.6 billion steelworks within the El Hadjar complex but it has yet to see the light of day. Al-Sheebani was already busy acquiring multiple real estate and tobacco interests in Algeria which many in the regime now see as part of the UAE’s attempt to undermine the country. 

Of greater relevance and interest are those on the list who are directly associated with President Tebboune. Although more names are likely to come to light, the one that stands out at first glance is Amara Charaf-Eddine, the former head of the Fédération algérienne de football (FAF), and a close associate of Tebboune and his chief of staff and advisor Boualem Boualem. Charaf-Eddine’s blackmailing practices were described in Algeria Politics & Security – 05.09.23 and 19.09.23.

Charaf-Eddine became closely associated with the UAE, possibly because it suspected that he was corrupt and therefore could be ‘used’, but more likely because of his senior positions: in Société Nationale des Tabacs et Allumettes (SNTA) which was renamed and restructured in 2017 as the state-owned Management et Développement des Actifs et des Ressources (MADAR Holding). SNTA and MADAR were strategic investment targets of Emirati interests, with Charaf-Eddine playing a key role in enabling the UAE to effectively take control of Algeria’s tobacco industry and several other interests. He is listed as owning an apartment worth more than US$400,000 in Dubai’s prestigious Burj Khalifa.

Ironically, the regime, through the media and close associates, accuses the Emiratis of using its investments to infiltrate and undermine the Algerian state, when a member of President Tebboune’s own entourage has played a key role in facilitating the UAE.

It is understandable to see why the regime is so angry with the Emirates but it refrains from attacking the UAE directly because so many members of the regime have interests there. It would be a clear case of the ‘pot calling the kettle black.’ This possibly explains why both parties have remained so silent over the Naturgy issue and why it might conceivably drop off the radar altogether.

This excerpt is taken from our Algeria Politics & Security weekly intelligence report. Click here to receive a free sample copy. Contact info@menas.co.uk for subscription details.

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