Mauritania’s former president Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz faces trial on corruption charges

Archive – Former President of Mauritania Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz – LI XUEREN / ZUMA PRESS / CONTACTOPHOTO

The Mauritanian judiciary started on Wednesday the trial of former President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz, accused of alleged corruption, money laundering and illicit enrichment during his ten years in office.

The Mauritanian police arrested on Tuesday Ould Abdelaziz, who spent the night in custody at an unknown location to ensure his presence at the opening of the trial, according to Radio France Internationale.

In fact, the defense lawyers of Ould Abdelaziz have denounced that the arrest of the former president was carried out «without notification of any order issued by a judge», for which they consider that «the political police is determined to humiliate» the former president.

This position has also been defended by the family of Ould Abdelaziz, as is the case of his daughter, Asma Abdelaziz, who has questioned the reasons why «out of more than 300 people involved in the case», the former president has been «the only one to be imprisoned».

The former president was indicted in March 2021 for corruption along with ten other people, including two former prime ministers and several former ministers, as part of an investigation into crimes allegedly committed during his time as president of the African country.

Now, after more than two years of legal and judicial proceedings, Ould Abdelaziz will finally face justice in what, according to the president of state lawyers, Maitre Brahim Ould Ebety, is the first time a president has been tried for corruption.

According to Ould Ebety, the analyzed evidence shows that Ould Abdelaziz took advantage of his position to «seize an important real estate patrimony» and prevaricated to «intervene in public contracts»; while his son made use of an NGO to launder money.

According to prosecutors, the former president’s wealth increased considerably throughout his ten years in office, reaching a value of 67 million euros in March 2021.

Ould Abdelaziz, who acceded to the Mauritanian presidency after winning the elections in 2009 — a year after leading a coup d’état and presiding over the High Council of State during a transitional period — left office in 2019, following the victory of Mohamed Ould Gazhuani, his former ‘dauphin’ and whom he supported in the elections.