This morning, we received a call from one of our sources to say he had just met the former minister, Cherif Rahmani, in his home town of Djelfa. The ‘Lion of the Desert’, as he was known, fled Algeria a few years ago, to avoid imprisonment for corruption which mainly involved the embezzlement of state funds. Rahmani, who was well known to Menas Associates’ author, is possibly the most corrupt of all the regime’s ministers in terms of funds embezzled and transferred abroad. He is regarded as one of the regime’s richest members having transferred abroad an estimated US$2 billion, and quite possibly much more. For the last few years, he is known to have been living in London — and possibly in other European countries — as well as the UAE and Hong Kong, where he is alleged to have stashed away vast funds.
Rahmani confirmed to our source that he had returned secretly to Algeria in November which is something he could only have done with guarantees from the regime that he would not be prosecuted. This rather blows a large hole in President Abdelmajid Tebboune’s alleged ‘fight against corruption.’ It also confirms the rise to power behind the scenes of former DRS boss, General Mohamad ‘Toufik’ Mediène, who was very close to Rahmani and who was an accomplice in much of his embezzlement.
For example, in 2003, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank’s Global Environment Facility (GEF) allocated US$20 million for the Ahaggar and Tassili-n-Ajjer regions. None of the money found its way into the regions, having been diverted and embezzled by Rahmani, the then minister of the environment, with the aid of Mediène’s DRS. When the UNDP asked Algeria for an audit, the DRS sent agents provocateurs to Tamanrasset to organise riots and to set fire to around 40 government and commercial buildings to ensure that all paperwork associated with the fraud literally went up in smoke. To punish the UNDP for its temerity, the DRS planted a massive bomb outside the UNDP office in Algiers on 11 December 2007, killing 41 people, including 17 UN staff.
Algeria Politics & Security will analyse the implications of Rahmani’s return next week.This excerpt is taken from Algeria Politics & Security, our weekly intelligence report on Algeria. Click here to receive a free sample copy.