NOUAKCHOTT, 11 March 2021 – Mauritania’s former president, Mohamed Ould Abdel-Aziz, has been charged with corrupton, money laundering and unexplained wealth.
The affair involves no less than $1 billion in public funds reportedly swindled under Ould Abdel-Aziz’s reign from 2008 to 2019.
News reports Thursday said Ould Abdel-Aziz was held overnight two nights – Tuesday and Wednesday – to answer questions from investigators at the national security headquarters in the capital, Nouakchott.
Judicial authorities in Nouakchott have asked that the former top army commander be held under court supervision until investigations are completed.
Ould Abdel-Aziz and several other former officials of his regime, who are facing similar charges, have all denied any wrongdoing.
The former leader says the accusations against him are “politically motivated”.
He has also claimed immunity under Article 93 of the Mauritanian Constitution and unspecified provisions of the country’s laws that allegedly grant a former president immunity from prosecution.
Mauritanian authorities say no such provisions exist and insist that no citizens, including presidents and former presidents, are above the law.
At the end of formal interrogation sessions held in August 2020, Ould Abdel-Aziz refused to sign the minutes of the proceedings.
During the August 2020 session, the former leader spent a night at the General Directorate for National Security.
Officials say he was only arrested and brought to face interrogation there, after he reportedly refused to cooperate with police investigators who had granted him the courtesy of coming to question him in his residence.
The investigations stem from the report of a parliamentary commission.
After months of investigating into the mismanagement of state funds during Ould Abdel-Aziz’s reign, the parliamentary commission concluded that funds were, indeed, swindled and that top officials of the regime, including the former president, abused their positions to enrich themselves and their supporters.
The parliamentary investigation revealed that more than $1 billion vanished from the country’s coffers through illicit contracts, ending up in the pockets and bank accounts of several state officials connected to the former top army commander.
Police investigating the matter have said their authority stems from the parliamentary report which was forwarded to the ministry of justice for action and transmitted from there to the police for investigation.
Some of those under investigation include the son of the former President, Bedr Ould Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, interrogated last year also, on money laundering charges.
Officials say Bedr and the foundation he heads – the “Ramna de Bienfaisance” – swindled and diverted public funds into the activities of this private foundation.
Following their interrogations in 2020, the former president, his son and other officials facing similar charges, were banned from leaving the country and saw their passports seized.