Tahar Allache: Algiers airport chief is charged for corruption but remains free

One of the most corrupt officials in the Algerian regime, Tahar Allache, has been reportedly charged for overbilling, squandering of public funds, corruption, attribution of undue advantages for the award of public contracts, influence peddling, favoritism, procurement in violation of legislative and regulatory provisions and abuse of office. A long list of charges that could see Tahar Allache spend decades behind bars, if he isn’t allowed to flee the country.

The managing director of the Airport Systems and Infrastructure Management Company (SGSIA), was for long protected by military generals and the police chief Khelifa Ounissi, however this time around, it appears the controversial character is running out of protectors. According to verified sources of the Algiers Herald who spoke under the condition of anonymity, Tahar Allache, assisted a number of high ranking military and government officials in smuggling millions of dollars out of the country through the authority he exercises over Algiers’ airport Houari Boumediene.

While many figures of the business and political worlds have been tried and jailed following the fall of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, a number of other have remained free, including Tahar Allache. A special treatment that discredits the country’s contested president Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s supposed war on corruption .

According to the authenticated source, to justify the request to remain free pending a trial, Tahar Allache presented a medical certificate stating that he is suffering from cancer, the nature of which hasn’t been specified. It is unclear whether the medical certificate is truthful given that these types of documents can easily be purchased.

Furthermore, Tahar Allache continues to head the SGCIA despite the charges held against him. In the country, the law stipulates that if an individual heading a public body is charged, the suspect must be suspended pending a trial.

In a previous Algiers Herald article, we had revealed how Tahar Allache had been accused of running a casting couch operation, an operation through which young female recruits were allegedly taken advantage of. Tahar Allache went as far as planning the construction of a bedroom and a Jacuzzi next to his office in the recently inaugurated Algiers Airport terminal to accommodate the young victims. Following the leak of the planned construction to the press, the construction of the bedroom and Jacuzzi was cancelled.

Although such charges would normally translate into the detention of the suspect, it has been revealed by the Algiers Herald source, that Justice Minister, Belkacem Zeghmati, personally intervened to have the judge charge Tahar Allache but allow him to remain free until his trial. A phone call to the judge was made hours before Tahar Allache was presented to the judge.

Currently investigated by the U.K Serious Fraud Office and the Algerian judiciary for allegedly requesting a bribe from the UK based multinational Ultra Electronics, in exchange of the award of a contract for the provision of equipment to the new terminal, Tahar Allache denies any wrongdoing despite evidence in writing suggesting otherwise.

In 2018, an Ultra Electonics executive was summoned as a witness by the judiciary, however, not much serious action has been taken since.

Past cases have demonstrated that when corrupt officials are charged in Algeria but not arrested, they are generally allowed to leave the country to seek political asylum elsewhere. It is a way for the regime to save officials, who likely know too much.

Such was the case with Ghali Belkecir, a corrupt military general currently seeking political asylum in France. Ghali Belkecir was allowed to leave the country accompanied by his wife and children after being suspended. Algeria issued a military court arrest warrant for Ghali Belkecir which almost guarantees that France will not extradite him on that basis alone (French courts do not recognize military courts rulings). Instead, the Algerian authorities could have issued an arrest warrant through a civilian court for the corruption crimes he had committed in the country, if there was any genuine interest in bringing the army general to justice.

Allowing corrupt officials to flee while issuing arrest warrants impossible to enforce also serves the regime’s populist narrative, it makes good eight PM news bulletins meant to convince Algerians that the contested president is working on fighting corruption.