Company 'astonished' by arrest of Algeria's richest man
Algeria's biggest company expressed "astonishment" at the detention of CEO Issad Rebrab and denied allegations of false customs declarations, in a statement received by AFP Wednesday.
Rebrab, head of conglomerate Cevital, was detained Monday, one of numerous high-profile businessmen to be probed in Algeria following the resignation of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika after 20 years in power.
"We express our astonishment in the face of this unexpected measure," said Cevital, Algeria's biggest privately-owned conglomerate, which was founded by Rebrab.
The allegations against Cevital's CEO do not concern "a matter of corruption, nor embezzlement, nor misappropriation of public funds," the company said.
Forbes lists Rebrab as Algeria's richest man and the sixth-wealthiest in Africa, with a net worth of $3.38 billion.
Cevital said he was arrested following a complaint by the customs authority, related to imports last year.
The probe involves "allegations of false declarations, overcharging and importing used material," on the part of subsidiary EvCon Industry, Cevital said.
Cevital employs 18,000 people, produces electronics, steel and food, and in recent years acquired businesses in France.
The conglomerate denies the charges, stating the imported items were "new goods and the declared value corresponds to their real value," the firm added.
Algeria's state news agency APS said Rebrab has been accused of importing used equipment to exploit tax and tariff breaks intended for the purchase of new products.
He is also "suspected of having made fake statements concerning the transfer of funds to and from abroad", APS reported Tuesday.
Rebrab has been in open conflict with Algerian authorities since 2015, accusing them of blocking his investments in the country.
Despite his businesses flourishing under Bouteflika's rule, last month the billionaire threw his support behind protesters demanding the president's resignation.
A number of tycoons have been arrested, since protests against Bouteflika gained momentum.
Three brothers from the influential Kouninef family were moved to jail Wednesday after appearing before a judge over an "insider influence" case, a judicial source told AFP.
Algeria media reported four Kouninef brothers were arrested on Sunday, but the source said just three had been detained in addition to an unnamed business executive.
The case follows the arrest of Ali Haddad, one of Algeria's top businessmen and a Bouteflika backer, who was detained late last month while trying to cross the border into Tunisia, days before the president's resignation.
Algerian media has reported around a dozen businessmen are under investigation, all with ties to Bouteflika's entourage.