Twelve Algerian businessmen investigated for corruption - Ennahar TV
Algeria has seized the passports of 12 businessmen over corruption allegations, private Ennahar TV said on Monday, in an apparent swoop on associates of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as he grapples with mass protests against his rule.
Protesters in the North African country, an oil and gas producer, want a new generation of leaders to replace an elderly ruling elite seen by many as out of touch and unable to jump-start a faltering economy hampered by cronyism.
On Sunday, authorities already arrested Ali Haddad, a leading Algerian businessman who was close to Bouteflika, who has been facing protests for more than a month to resign.
On Monday, the state prosecutor opened cases against "some people" over alleged corruption and banned them from transferring assets abroad, the state news agency APS said.
It gave no details, but Ennahar TV, a well-informed media outlet throughout the wave of unrest, said 12 businessmen had been targeted and their passports seized, citing a statement from the general prosecutor.
Apart from Haddad, two tycoons close to Bouteflika, Mahieddine Tahkout and Reda Kouninef, were put on the list, according to Ennahar.
Seeking to defuse the unrest, Bouteflika, 82, in power for 20 years, said on March 11 he was dropping plans to run for a fifth term. But he stopped short of going immediately in favour of waiting for a national conference on political reforms.
That further enraged protesters, prompting the army chief of staff, Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah, to step in by proposing last week to ask the constitutional council to see whether Bouteflika is still fit for office.
Late on Sunday, Ennahar and El Bilad TV channels said that Bouteflika - who has been in frail health and largely out of public view for years - might resign this week.
The government has not commented on the reports, which came hours after Bouteflika named a caretaker cabinet. Political sources said that might be a signal that Bouteflika could resign, as a caretaker president cannot name cabinets.
Incumbent Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui will head the caretaker administration.
Central Bank Governor Mohamed Loukal was named finance minister, while the former head of the state power and gas utility, Mohamed Arkab, will be energy minister.
Demonstrators have rejected military intervention in civilian matters and want to dismantle the entire ruling elite, which includes veterans from the 1954-62 war of independence against France, army officers, the ruling party and business tycoons.
Tens of thousands have taken to the streets of Algiers for more than a month, complaining of corruption, nepotism and economic mismanagement they say has tarnished Bouteflika`s rule.
Several close allies, including some members of the ruling FLN and union leaders, have abandoned Bouteflika.
(This article has not been edited by Zeebiz editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)
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