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Ex-president of Mauritania freed after police interrogation

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the former head of state of Mauritania, has been released from police custody, following a week of interrogation to investigate suspicions of corruption.

The ex-president was taken into police custody on Monday last week and held under charges of corruption during his tenure in office as the head of state.

Abdel Aziz was an army general who seized power in 2008 in a coup d’état with the armed forces of Mauritania and served two terms in office as president up to 2019. The coup ousted President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who had dismissed a number of high-ranking army generals from office that same day.

Allegations

The 63-year-old Abdel Aziz, who has been at odds with his successor, President Mohamed Sheikh El Ghazouani, was summoned by the Economic Crimes Squad.

He was brought in on the eve of a scheduled press conference that was called off at the last minute. Some assume it was organised as a defence mechanism in the likely event of his arrest.

Abdel Aziz stands accused of plundering the country’s resources and awarding a series of large private contracts illegally during his time in office.

He was held at a villa in the grounds of the Police Academy in the capital, Nouakchott, the place where he had previously kept Abdallahi Senussi, the head of neighbouring Libya’s military intelligence during Muammar al-Gaddafi’s years in power, before handing him over to Libya in return for a ransom of US$200 million.

Earnings from oil

The Mauritanian Parliament opened investigations into Abdel Aziz’s conduct during his tenure shortly after his departure from office last year.

He has refused to speak to the police, citing his constitutional immunity as a former head of state. His handling of oil revenue and state property, as well as a number of foreign companies, is being probed.

His family faces similar accusations, as do former ministers who have been placed under judicial supervision.

Although Abdel Aziz has not yet been charged, his lawyer confirmed that his passport has been seized. He has also been banned from leaving Nouakchott.

Nana Abena Boakye-Boateng

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