Kaspersky in corruption probe

Kaspersky Algeria

The father was Prime Minister, the son Lamine Ouyahia a businessman, and the exclusive distributor of Kaspersky’s software solutions in the entire Algerian market. During the father’s reign as prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, now incarcerated in the prison of El-Harrach is alleged to have influenced public bodies and private corporations to grant large contracts to his son Lamine Ouyahia.

According to the allegations made, the son of the former prime minister ran a company called ‘OTEK’, which became the exclusive distributor of a range of IT security solutions. The list of clients included: the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the national oil company Sonatrach, Algerie Telecom, to name but a few. According to the findings of investigative journalists, Lamine Ouyahia used his father’s influence to be able to transfer large amounts of foreign currency to Dubai where he owns another company similarly named ‘OTEK FZCO’. The allegations include the payment of commissions by Kaspersky Lab directly into a bank account held by Lamine Ouyahia. Commissions which are illegal under the current laws of the country, as benefits generated from sales in the country must remain in the country.

Lamine Ouyahia in 2014

Furthermore, the investigations also demonstrated how the father influenced the tax authorities to effectively reduce the son’s corporate tax liabilities.

In parallel, OTEK also obtained a large contract with the country’s national phone operator Algerie Telecom, in addition to the Qatar-based ‘Ooredoo’, under very opaque circumstances since no calls for bids were made.

According to media reports Ahmed Ouyahia’s wife and other children were allowed to flee the country, they are now hiding in Spain.

Ahmed Ouyahia and his wife

This yet another episode of corrupt officials in Algeria further demonstrates how widespread and institutionalised corruption has become in the country. Corruption is equally widespread in Russia, with many analysts drawing parallels between the two nations.

More troubling in this case, is how the Algerian officials entrusted such sensitive security markets to a foreign company known to entertain relations with the Russian intelligence agency the ‘FSB’. In the U.S and the U.K, Kaspersky is banned from being used by sensitive public bodies due to this proximity with the FSB. Twitter went as far as banning the company from running advertising on its platform.

In October 2017, the Wall Street Journal unveiled how hackers working for the Russian government used Kaspersky antivirus software to steal classified material from a home computer belonging to an NSA contractor. Shortly after the WSJ’s investigation, Kaspersky admitted the violation but blamed it on a technical failure.

It is possible that the personal data of the Algerian people has been intercepted and provided to the Russian government, which could potentially mean that Ahmed and Lamine Ouyahia can be tried for high treason. High treason carries the death penalty in Algeria.

It is widely believed that the regime entertains business relations with the Putin regime in the context of arm sales. According to investigative journalist Mohamed Sifaoui, arm sales between the two countries occur in very opaque circumstances for undisclosed amounts.

This week, the Guardian has unveiled in an investigation how Vladimir Putin seeks to prop up the military junta in Sudan, advising the Sudanese junta to for example “find foreigners during protests” or even “eliminate the demonstrators“. A similar counter-revolution tactic was used in Algeria, when the regime released a statement advising that foreign agents were arrested whilst taking part in the demonstrations, this without identifying the suspects. The inhabitants of Algeria did not believe the statement and requested from the authorities to publicly identify the supposed arrestees.