Algeria's richest man freed after conviction for financial crimes

Issad Rebrab was released as he had been in detention for longer than his six-month sentence

Issad Rebrab, Algerian entrepreneur and CEO of CEVITAL industrial group, poses on January 30, 2014, in his office in Algiers, Algeria. AFP PHOTO / FAROUK BATICHE (Photo by FAROUK BATICHE / AFP)

Algeria's richest man, Issad Rebrab, walked free on time served early on Wednesday after a court sentenced him to six months for tax, banking and customs offences.

Prosecutors had sought a one-year prison sentence for the 74-year-old head of Algeria's biggest privately owned conglomerate Cevital, who was one of several tycoons arrested in April as part of a sweeping corruption investigation.

The probe followed the resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika as president after weeks of mass protests against his 20-year rule.

Mr Rebrab had already spent eight months in custody awaiting trial, more than his sentence, so he was released by the court.

He was fined 1.383 billion dinars (Dh42.7 million).

Cevital subsidiary Evcon was fined 2.766bn dinars.

Jordan-based Housing Bank for Trade and Finance, which was also prosecuted, was fined 3.169bn dinars.

They were convicted of breaking laws on foreign exchange and fund transfers as well as forgery and false custom declarations.

Forbes magazine lists Mr Rebrab as Algeria's richest man and the sixth-wealthiest in Africa, with a net worth of $3.9 billion in 2019.

Cevital employs 18,000 people, produces electronics, steel and food, and in recent years it has acquired businesses in France.

While his businesses flourished under Mr Bouteflika's rule, Mr Rebrab had backed the protests that ultimately forced the president to resign in April.

His company has said it was "astonished" by his arrest.