Ex-President of Mauritania interrogated in the case of embezzlement of state property

On August 17, Mauritania’s Economic Crimes Police launched an investigation against former President Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz on charges of mismanagement and misappropriation of public goods.

Mauritanian police interrogated Mohammad Ould Abdel Aziz about corruption cases during his presidential term, Al-Arabia reports.

The hearing took place at the headquarters of the General Directorate of National Security. Mohammad Ould Abdel Aziz is expected to be imprisoned because the parliament accused him of corruption and squandering the island for the former emir of Qatar.

In turn, a group of lawyers calling themselves «the Committee for the Defence of the Former President» also issued a statement saying that Mohammad Ould Abdel Aziz «is under illegal detention and he cannot maintain his legal defense».

Notably, in January 2020, the Mauritanian Parliament formed a committee to investigate major deals during the reign of Mohammad Ould Abdel Aziz.

Among the issues probed by the commission were the handling of oil revenue, the sale of state property in the capital Nouakchott, the winding up of a publicly owned food supply company and the activities of a Chinese fishing company called Pully Hong Dong.

The committee accused Mohammad Ould Abdel Aziz of corruption for giving the former Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa a small Mauritanian island on the Atlantic coast north of Nouakchott.

In its accusation, the committee refers to a secret letter sent by the Ambassador of Qatar, Mohammad bin Kurdi Talib al-Marri, on 12 January 2012 to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar. The ambassador pointed out that the former President of Mauritania, Mohammad Ould Abdel Aziz «decided to give the tourist one of the most beautiful islands located on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean near the Argen Basin».

The parliamentary report also concluded that the President and his family members seized a significant portion of the country’s state property and natural wealth, and used their influence to negotiate deals that damaged the Mauritanian economy.

In early August, Parliament referred the report to the judiciary for investigation against Mоhammad Ould Abdel Aziz, his family members and many of the ministers and officials who worked with him.

Mоhammad Ould Abdel Aziz is a former army officer who came to power in 2008 in a military coup and was elected president in 2009, then re-elected in 2014. The current president, Mohammad Ould Ghazouani, assumed office in August 2019 after winning the presidential election. Prior to his election, Ould Ghazouani served as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Mauritania and Defense Minister.