Algeria / Tahar Allache, the Serious Fraud Office & a casting couch

10 mins read
Tahar Allache

In this piece we will be making new revelations and examine how Tahar Allache, the current chief of Algiers’ airport, went as far as requesting a bribe in exchange of granting a software provision contract.

The Serious Fraud Office is currently investigating the bribery case involving the Algiers airport CEO, whereby a bribe had been requested from the U.K based multinational Ultra Electronics in exchange of granting a juicy software contract for the terminal to be inaugurated tomorrow, the 29th of April 2019.

Being a government department, the Serious Fraud Office has been accused in the past of lacking independence in its investigations when compared to the Judiciary.

Tahar Allache is a protégé of former dictator Abdelaziz Bouteflika and is thought to be protected by former intelligence chief Bachir Tartag, according to our well-informed sources.

Furthermore, we have been made aware through this investigation that Bachir Tartag, at the time, covered for Tahar Allache by blocking the intelligence services’ investigation into the case. The project director Mr. Amine Kheider was secretly cooperating with the Algerian secret service and provided them with all the evidence of Tahar Allache’s embezzlements of the airport’s budget. A large case file compromised of damning evidence was made ready to hand to the Algerian judiciary. Bachir Tartag, at the last minute, proceeded to block the investigation and hence protect Tahar Allache from the criminal prosecution that was about to occur.

Two months ago, the Algerian Police’s financial crime brigade erupted on the SGSIA headquarters. They handed Tahar Allache a warrant from the Algiers prosecutor ordering Allache to supply the judiciary with the full copies of all the files related to Ultra Electronics and Gate Technologies.

The brigade proceeded to carry out interrogations and heard several members of the commission that selected the chosen supplier for the project. The police were focusing on uncovering the reasons that pushed SGSIA to eliminate Ultra Electronics and Gate Technologies. Most members of the commission clearly and formally stated that the order came from Tahar Allache.

To this day, no disciplinary measures were taken against Tahar Allache and he remains at the head of the Algiers airport. In 2015, the SGSIA, the state organisation he directs, experienced a large strike amongst its employees who were demanding his resignation, following accusations of abuse of a position of power, including allegations of sexually harassing air hostesses.

Upon further investigating these allegations of sexual harassment, the Algiers Herald found out from the Algiers’ airport staff that Tahar Allache is known to run ‘a casting couch’ operation, whereby female jobseekers are expected to provide sexual favours in exchange of obtaining employment. These employees told us, it is an open secret amongst the airport’s staff. We also asked why these women would not come forward and were made aware that it is probably because in an islamic country, these girls cannot afford to be named and shamed publicly, in addition to the possibility of being subjected to reprisals.

During a conversation between the legal representative of Ultra Electronics, who we will refer to as A.K. here, Tahar Allache went completely ballistic on the representative in an exchange of messages we have copies of. Here is an extract:

Tahar Allache, in this exchange, makes serious threats of having the legal representative A.K. made a fugitive “wherever he may go in the world”. Tahar Allache even goes as far as stating that he would hire hitmen to murder the legal representative.

Ultra Electronics, which has submitted a complaint to the Serious Fraud Office, went as far as reaching out to the Algerian president’s office.

The British group, which accused the CEO of the Management Company of Algiers Airport Services and Infrastructures (SGSIA), Tahar Allache, of corruption, sent, through his legal representative in Algeria, a letter to Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Ultra Electronics, “aggrieved by colossal financial and moral losses“, was appealing to “the guarantor of the rule of law at the head of the highest judiciary” so that the CEO of the SGSIA, i.e Tahar Allache, “responds to the accusations“.

After recalling the facts, the same group and its subsidiary, Gate Technologies, via its legal representative in Algeria, regretted, according to the same source, that “no one is reacting in the light of this financial crime“, which “caused a huge prejudice to Britain and Algeria’s economic interests“.

The facts go back to mid-2016, when the SGSIA launched a call for tenders for an airport management IT solution. The UK company Ultra Electronics, after bidding, won the contract.

However, according to Jenny Lawton, Managing Director of Ultra Electronics, quoted by a number of media outlets back then, a man named Fodhil Kerkache, introduced himself as the “representative” of Tahar Allache, and “openly demanded an immediate payment – in advance – of a large amount in cash and in European currency“. Jenny Lawton proceeded to tell the representative that Ultra Electronics is a respected and listed company that does not engage in such practices and flew back to London.

Following these unfortunate events, our company began to notice the succession of difficulties, but also blockages on the part of the SGSIA and CSCEC who then proceeded to the outright elimination of our offer“, she wrote at the time.

According to our source, close to the case, the cost of the contact was inflated by the CSCEC and a large fee paid abroad to Tahar Allache. According to the same source, Tahar Allache has two daughters living in Paris, one married two years ago, and both living in a luxury flat in Paris; where did the funds come from to make such a costly acquisition?

Ultra Electronics, after reaching out to the Ministers of Justice and Transport, with evidence to support their allegations, eventually submitted a complaint to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

Its subsidiary, Gate Technologies “had already begun delivery of equipment after winning the contract“. The same source added that “the equipment was banned from access to the airport when Ultra Electronics was illegally eliminated, which caused, in large part, the financial losses“.

The two companies, who are “disappointed” by the silence of the two institutions despite “all the overwhelming evidence against Mr. Allache“, explain that they refer, as a “last resort“, to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, “the guarantor of the rule of law in the head of the highest judiciary“. Tough luck for Ultra Electronics, “the guarantor of the rule of law” they hoped would help out was at the time Abdelaziz Bouteflika, himself a serial embezzler.

The Ultra Electronics group has especially expressed the wish that the CEO of SGSIA, Tahar Allache, “answer for his actions in the light of these accusations of corruption“.

Aissa K. is another victim of Tahar Allache, Aissa was the head of security at the building site of the new terminal, he was unfairly dismissed and proceeded to take legal action, despite the fact that the court of Dar El-beida agreed with Aissa and ordered Tahar Allache to reinstate him, the latter refuses to abide by the decision made by the judiciary, even after the intervention of a bailiff. One more crime, known in legal jargon as ‘contempt of court’ and punishable by years of imprisonment. The victim is still trying to obtain justice. It appears this Tahar Allache believes he is above the laws of the country.

The court judgment in the case of Aissa K.

The Serious Fraud Office refused to comment when the Algiers Herald sought clarification on the progress of their investigation.

French version can be found here.

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