Jump to navigation

Mauritania

Ould Abdel Aziz's trial for grand corruption sets precedent 

Former President has ducked questions about the origins of his US$70 million personal fortune

The groundbreaking trial of ex-President and coup leader Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz opened in Nouakchott on 6 April with his pleading not guilty to charges of illicit enrichment in a case that will touch on oil trading, land deals and a Chinese fishing company.

The case against Abdel Aziz, which could embarrass some of his foreign business and diplomatic associates, was launched in 2020 when a parliamentary investigation was opened into financial dealings under his presidency (AC Vol 60 No 13, Ghazouani’s modest mandate). He had left office a year earlier after handing over control of the ruling Union pour la République (UPR), which he founded, to his handpicked successor and current President Mohamed Ould Cheikh el Ghazouani. 

At that stage, General Ghazouani, who had run Mauritania's anti-jihadist campaign for the previous decade, referred to Abdel Aziz as 'my brother, my friend.'

Those sentiments changed once Ghazouani was established in office. The investigation, upon which the charges are based, focused on oil revenues, sales of state assets, the winding up of a public company in charge of food supplies and the operations of a Chinese fishing company, Poly Hong Dong.

Abdel Aziz faces charges of abuse of office, influence peddling, illicit enrichment and money laundering.

He has responded to the charges with anger, contempt and sense of betrayal, claiming immunity from prosecution, insisting there are no constitutional means for trying former presidents.

The court announced in February that it would not make a ruling on challenges to its jurisdiction until the end of the case.

Abdel Aziz has refused to answer questions about the source of his wealth. Initially, he was expected to be allowed to leave the country but after several stints in custody, it seems probable his case will run its course. That doesn't preclude some sort of deal should he be convicted (AC Vol 61 No 17, Don't you know who I am?).

Abdel Aziz wrote in a note released by lawyers on 4 April that he would appear in court 'to defend his honour' against 'extravagant and fallacious accusations'.



Related Articles

Ghazouani’s modest mandate

Ex-President Abdel Aziz has smoothly slipped his placeman into his old job while a reinvigorated opposition failed and the world turned away

Opposition leaders were left with much to ponder after the 22 June presidential election handed Mohamed Ould Cheikh el Ghazouani outright victory on the first ballot with 52% of th...


Abdel Aziz plays it safe

The President will hold the political ring while coopting minor politicians and parties, but he’s keeping out of the regional operation in Mali

Although the ruling Union pour la République suffered setbacks in some smaller regions in last year’s general election, it has consolidated its grip and still monopoli...


Out with the Ould

The promise of the President's retirement will dominate politics as the opposition seeks to create a broad alliance

Politics in Mauritania could be radically reshaped in the months ahead if talks between the opposition Forum national pour la démocratie et l'unité (FNDU) and the grassroots anti-s...