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Algeria sentences rogue banker Khalifa to 18 years in jail

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An Algerian appeals court on Tuesday confirmed an 18-year prison sentence for Rafik Khalifa, who embezzled from his own bank to finance a lavish lifestyle, the official APS news agency said.

Khalifa, 55, had received the same sentence in a November 2020 court ruling involving one of the North African country’s largest financial scandals.

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Khalifa, who had a French villa and a private jet, built and lost his empire while still in his 30s.

The criminal court in Blida, southwest of the capital Algiers, also fined Khalifa one million dinars ($6,873), with confiscation of his seized assets for offences including conspiracy, fraud and falsification of bank documents, APS said.

Khalifa, who appeared by video from prison, was acquitted of influence peddling.

After inheriting his father’s small pharmacy in a suburb of Algiers, Khalifa founded in the late 1990s a bank that bore his own name, beginning the creation of a conglomerate that included an airline and a television channel in France.

It all came crashing down in 2003 when the group built around the bank, founded in the 1990s, went bust with losses estimated up to around $5 billion.

It had employed 20,000 people in Algeria and Europe.

When his empire collapsed, Khalifa fled to London to avoid arrest but was extradited at the end of 2013.

In 2007 an Algerian court convicted him in absentia to a life sentence. He was then retried in Algeria and given an 18-year jail term in 2015.

A further retrial in 2020 issued the same sentence, which was upheld Tuesday.

A French court in 2014 convicted Khalifa in absentia and sentenced him to five years for misappropriating millions of euros.

Of 15 accused in the same case, the court on Tuesday acquitted eight, including Abdelwahab Keramane, a former central bank governor, his brother Abdenour, an ex-industry minister, and daughter Yasmine.

The others were each jailed for between two and eight years.

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