On Thursday, an Algerian court upheld heavy prison sentences for two former prime ministers who had served under former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, according to a judicial source.
The source said that the verdict upheld the original ruling issued in December 2019, which sentenced former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia to 15 years and 12 years to former Prime Minister Abdel Malik Sellal.
The two were convicted in a corruption trial that focused on the country’s auto sector and secret financing of the 2019 reelection attempt, which was aborted by Bouteflika, who resigned as a result of his illness in April of that year amid mass protests.
The two men were retried after the Supreme Court, in November, overturned their earlier convictions on appeal.
And the official Algerian News Agency reported that Ouyahia admitted during the retrial in early January to receiving gold bars from Gulf donors and then selling them on the black market.
The agency added that he had confessed to selling 60 gold bars, with a total value of 350 million Algerian dinars (about 2.5 million dollars), and depositing the amount in his personal accounts.
Ouyahia said that he had previously remained silent on the matter so as not to “harm relations between Algeria and some friendly countries.”
The automobile scandal, in which many businessmen were indicted, reportedly cost the public treasury an estimated 128 billion dinars (about $ 1 billion).
The judicial source said that the former industry ministers, Mahjoub Baddah and Youssef Youssef, who were both convicted in the same case, reduced their sentences from 10 years to two and 3 years, respectively.
It also reduced the sentence of Ali Haddad, the emperor of construction and former head of the main employers’ organization in Algeria, from seven years to four years, despite his conviction in other cases.
Ouyahia served as prime minister four times between 1995 and 2019. Sellal held the position for five years until 2017 and ran four election campaigns for Bouteflika.
Their trial in December 2019 was the first in a series of high-profile corruption cases that began after Bouteflika resigned after 20 years in office.
This is the first time, since Algerias independence from France in 1962, that former prime ministers have been on trial.