$36bn embezzled from Algerian government found in family home, says President

Discovery comes a month after President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced the recovery of $20bn in stolen assets as part of anti-corruption campaign

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About 500 billion santeem ($36 billion) in embezzled government funds were recovered from a family home in Algeria's north-east Skikda governorate, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has said.

The funds are part of the billions embezzled by officials during the regime of the late president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Mr Tebboune told governors at a meeting in Algiers last week.

“The Algerian people have recently been discovering the amount of embezzled money that exists. One family had 500 billion [$36 billion] — imagine what the rest has,” he said.

“If this money had stayed [in the state’s coffers], Algeria would have become a regional, continental, Mediterranean power and even more.”

The President said his government has recovered an estimated $20 billion allegedly looted from state funds, as he continues his campaign against corruption.

Mr Tebboune’s announcement, however, has renewed debate over the amount of money that was looted during Mr Bouteflika's 20-year rule.

The former president was forced to resign on April 2, 2019, following an unprecedented wave of popular protests known as “Hirak”.

Some considered the discovery of the funds to be a “blow to the corrupt”, while others doubted the figures and questioned the credibility of the Algerian President, calling the amounts “exaggerated”.

In a statement to Algeria's official news agency last month, Mr Tebboune said that “huge [amounts of state] funds were smuggled [abroad] over a period of 10 to 12 years” and that “several European countries offered their help to Algeria regarding this issue and expressed their willingness to co-operate in order to recover these funds and return them to the Algerian state’s treasury, as long as legal procedures are respected”.

He claimed the funds were used to purchase luxury properties including five-star hotels and villas, and were also stashed in accounts in Switzerland, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands.

Mr Tebboune himself served as a minister in several of Mr Bouteflika's cabinets before being appointed prime minister in May 2017 — only to be dismissed three months later.

Updated: January 23, 2023, 6:26 PM