Mauritania’s ex-leader faces graft charges in landmark trial
Mauritania’s former President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is on trial on corruption charges, accused of amassing a $72m fortune while in office, whereby the prosecution of a former leader is unprecedented in the country and extremely rare in Africa.
Abdel Aziz, a 66-year-old former general, is accused of amassing an illicit personal fortune during his 11 years in power. He appeared in court on Wednesday, January 25 in capital Nouakchott, along with nine other defendants, including former prime ministers, ministers and businessmen. They face charges that include abuse of office, influence peddling, money laundering and illicit enrichment. Abdel Aziz, a trader’s son who came to power in a bloodless coup, stepped down in 2019 after two terms in which he defused violence from armed groups that has swept across other countries in the Sahel.
He was succeeded by his former right-hand man, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, and within a month of the handover, allegations emerged of financial misdealing. Aziz is suspected of syphoning money from state contracts or the sale of real estate and amassing a fortune equivalent to more than $72m. The ex-president has denied the allegations against him but refused to answer investigators’ questions about the source of his wealth. He describes himself as the victim of score-settling and argues he has immunity from prosecution under the constitution. The prosecution is unprecedented in Mauritania and also extremely rare in Africa as a whole.