Middle East

UK nabs suspect in Algeria corruption case

LONDON: British authorities have arrested the head of a bank at the center of Algeria's biggest corruption scandal at the request of the French authorities, the Metropolitan Police said Friday. A force spokeswoman said Rafik Khalifa, who was sentenced in absentia to life in prison by an Algerian court on March 22, was arrested in the British capital on March 27.

"Rafik Abdel-Moumen Khalifa, 40, of no fixed abode, was arrested by the Met's Extradition Unit in west London," she said in a statement.

"He was arrested under a European arrest warrant issued by the French authorities under the offences of conspiracy to money launder, breach of trust and fraudulent bankruptcy."

Khalifa, who has been exiled in London since 2003 when hundreds of millions of dollars was discovered, missing from the Khalifa Bank, was due to appear at the City of Westminster Magistrates Court in central London that day.

The Met spokeswoman told AFP Khalifa was still in Britain but had no information as to the outcome of the hearing.

A court in Blida, southern Algeria, sentenced Khalifa to life in prison for a variety of offences, including fraud, embezzlement, theft and forgery.

The exiled former governor of the Central Bank, Abdel-Wahab Keramane, and five others were also sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison.

Khalifa's wife received a 10-year sentence, as did former industry minister Abdel-Nnour Keramane and his daughter Yasmine, the former representative of  Khalifa Airways in Milan, Italy. The court also ordered the seizure of the assets of all those convicted.

Khalifa was previously arrested by British police on suspicion of money-laundering in February and given bail until May.

Algeria and Britain have an extradition treaty but lawyers have warned that an extradition process could be lengthy. - AFP





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