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Algeria moves against business leaders close to former President

ALGERIA’S interim President Abdelkader Bensalah has moved against business leaders deemed loyal to former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in what is seen as a bid to stave off protests demanding his resignation.

Mr Bensalah sacked Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour, the head of Algeria’s state energy company Sonatrach, today, raising fears among investors over the future of the country’s oil industry.

Algeria’s oil output is estimated at around one million barrels per day, and it produces 135 billion cubic meters of gas per year, according to Sonatrach’s figures.

It remains the backbone of the Algerian economy, accounting for around 20 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product and 85 per cent of its exports.

Mr Kaddour was replaced by Rachid Hachichi, Sonatrach’s head of production and exploration.

Three of Algeria’s wealthiest businessmen — brothers Reda, Karim and Noah Coninav — were arrested on corruption charges yesterday on the orders of the Sidi Mohamed Magistrate Court.

The trio were known for their links to Mr Bouteflika and were initially detained last week for allegedly “abusing their influence and failing to fulfil obligations as stipulated in government contracts.”

Billionaire Issad Rebrab, known as the “richest man in Algeria,” was also arrested on similar charges the previous day. The chief executive of Algeria’s biggest privately owned conglomerate Cevital was being held in jail, “suspected of having made fake statements concerning the transfer of funds to and from abroad.”

Last month Mr Rebrab claimed to support the huge anti-government protests demanding the resignation of Mr Bouteflika who was preparing to stand for a fifth term of office.

Demonstrations have continued since he stood down three weeks ago with calls for Mr Bensalah to resign too as the movement seeks the downfall of “Le Pouvoir,” or the Establishment, meaning those close to the former regime.

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