Algeria Sentences Ex-Energy Minister To 20 Years In Prison

A former Algerian energy minister was sentenced in absentia Thursday to 20 years in prison for corruption, the latest ruling against a top ally of late president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, local media reported.

Chakib Khelil headed the energy ministry of Africa’s top gas exporter for a decade under Bouteflika, who stepped down in 2019 following mass protests against his 20-year rule.

Algeria’s judiciary has pursued various graft allegations against the 82-year-old since 2013, with another 20-year jail term already upheld last June for a separate case.

The Sidi M’Hamed court in Algiers also issued on Thursday prison terms of between five and 10 years to former ministers Amar Ghoul and Mohamed Bedjaoui, along with two former heads of state energy firm Sonatrach, Noureddine Bouterfa and Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour, the APS news agency reported.

All of the accused were found guilty of “squandering public funds when concluding contracts with foreign companies”, the report added.

The court also confirmed an international arrest warrant against Khelil, who quit his post in 2010 and moved to the United States after being implicated in a scandal involving high-ranking Sonatrach officials who were later jailed for corruption.

In 2013, the North African country issued an international arrest warrant for Khelil over a case involving contracts between Sonatrach and foreign companies, including Saipem, a former subsidiary of Italian energy giant Eni.

He returned to Algeria in 2016 after the charges were dropped, only to flee again after Bouteflika’s 2019 resignation, which sparked a string of investigations into official corruption during his time in power.