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Algerian police arrest businessmen close to Bouteflika’s inner circle

Issouf Sanogo, AFP | File photo of Algerian businessman Issad Rebrab at an EU-Africa Business Forum meeting in Nov. 2017.

Five Algerian billionaires appeared in court on Monday to face charges from the general prosecutor following their arrest as part of an anti-graft investigation, Ennahar TV said on Monday.

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The five Algerian businessmen are Issad Rebrab, considered the richest businessman in the energy-rich north African nation, and four brothers from the Kouninef family said to be close to ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Ennahar TV said.

Prosecutors are investigating "insider influence to obtain undue advantages and misappropriation of real estate", state television reported.

The Kouninef family is hugely influential and the four brothers have dealings in everything from agribusiness to civil engineering.

They are said to be close to Said Bouteflika, the younger brother and former advisor of the president who stepped down on April 2 after weeks of mass protests against his 20-year rule.

Army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah has since called on prosecutors to "accelerate the pace" of probes into corrupt tycoons with ties to Bouteflika's inner circle.

One of Algeria's top businessmen and a Bouteflika backer, Ali Haddad, was arrested in late March as he tried to cross the border into Tunisia with two passports and undeclared currency.

The day after he was detained, prosecutors announced graft probes into unnamed individuals and banned corruption suspects from leaving the country.

Algerian media has reported that around a dozen businessmen are under investigation, all with ties to Bouteflika's entourage.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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