Former President Gets 5 Years Over Corruption Scandal

Ex-President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz received a five-year jail term for embezzlement and money laundering from a court in Mauritius. The strongman’s lengthy career—which included leading two coups, two periods as president, and his role as a counterterrorism partner for Western nations—ended with the judgment, representing a unique corruption trial in West Africa.

Aziz and other high-ranking Mauritanian officials were on trial for 11 months on charges of embezzling public funds. Relations between the two men deteriorated when Ghazouani succeeded Aziz as president in 2019; they had been longtime friends.

After Aziz left the government, he tried to take over a big political party, which led to a fight with Ghazouani. In 2020, Aziz and eleven others were named in a corruption investigation initiated by a parliamentary panel. In its Monday ruling, the court acquitted two prime ministers and four former ministers on the identical charges. Embezzlement and damage to the public good were among the allegations dismissed by the court, which still ordered the seizure of Aziz’s unlawfully obtained property.

Current President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, a longtime political friend of Aziz’s, disgraced the nation he governed from 2008 to 2019. The country is strategically located between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. While the other accusations were dropped, he was found guilty of laundering and unlawful gain. The court also ordered that Aziz’s illegally obtained possessions be seized.

The 66-year-old ex-president made no statement in response to the verdict. After serving a lengthy sentence in 2021, he has been in custody since January 24. Among the defendants in the trial, the harshest sentence was handed down; two ex-prime ministers and two ex-ministers were found not guilty.

Even more so in Africa, a former head of state’s prosecution is very unusual. Most ex-leaders convicted in international or national tribunals are accused of crimes involving blood rather than corruption.

Despite repeated requests for an interview, Aziz avoided speaking with the examining magistrate, claiming that he was the target of competitors’ attempts to settle scores. He was accused of amassing an estimated $72 million.