Algerian court sentences four siblings to prison for Bouteflika-era graft

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An Algerian court on Wednesday sentenced four siblings, from a family close to ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to hefty prison terms for corruption under his rule, state media reported.

The Kouninef siblings had been found guilty on earlier this month on charges including exerting undue influence and obtaining unfair advantages, money laundering, embezzlement of land and breaches of public works contracts.

Their family owns KouGC Group, a firm specializing in civil engineering, hydraulics and construction.

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The company had repeatedly secured public sector contracts under the rule of Bouteflika, who resigned last April under pressure from unprecedented protests against his bid to serve a fifth term after two decades in power.

On Monday, brothers Reda, Noah-Tarek and Abdelkader-Karim Kouninef received prison sentences of 16, 15 and 12 years respectively, the official APS news agency reported.

Their sister Souad-Nour, who has fled abroad, received a 20-year term in absentia. An international warrant for her arrest remains outstanding.

The Algiers court also ordered the confiscation of their domestic and foreign assets.

The Kouninef brothers were close to Said Bouteflika, the president’s brother, who was seen as the real power behind the throne in the later years of his rule.

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The Kouninef case was the fifth major corruption trial since Bouteflika resigned. Said Bouteflika is among those now in jail.

But analysts and opponents see the probes as score-settling among elite clans rather than a profound shift towards better governance.

In December, Abdelmadjid Tebboune – a former prime minister under Bouteflika – took power after he won a presidential election decried as a sham by the protest movement, on an official turnout of less than 40 percent.