Algeria: The story behind Kaddour’s extradition, Sonatrach’s former CEO

By Farid Alilat
Posted on Friday, 8 October 2021 12:16

Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour, the former head of Sonatrach. Billal Bensalem / NurPhoto / AFP

How did Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour, oil group Sonatrach’s former CEO, end up getting arrested in the UAE and extradited to Algeria?

In Koléa, where several former ministers and oligarchs are serving heavy sentences, Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour is sharing a cell with former prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal. Sonatrach’s former CEO (2017-2019) has been incarcerated in this penitentiary centre, located about 40km from Algiers, since August. Prosecuted in several cases, including that of the Augusta refinery, alongside two former executives of the oil group who were also incarcerated, he has already been questioned several times by the investigating magistrate on this last case.

According to his lawyers, and relatives who visit him, he has resigned [to his fate] but [is] in good spirits. “It’s as if he’s relieved to no longer be on the run,” says one of his relatives. The former big boss was in fact arrested in the United Arab Emirates (UAE); but how did Algeria obtain his extradition?

Interrogation

Ever since he was fired from the oil group in April 2019, Kaddour has divided his life between France and the Gulf countries, where he worked as an international consultant. However, the Algerian justice system decided to launch a vast anti-corruption campaign that same month, after the fall of Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s regime.

As a result, he was caught up in the affairs of BRC (BRC-Brown & Root Condor, a joint venture between Sonatrach and Kellogg Brown & Root that was dissolved in 2007), as well as Sonatrach’s 2018 purchase of the Italian Augusta refinery for €900m.

In June 2020, a judge from the Sidi M’Hamed court in Algiers issued an international arrest warrant against him. However, it was not until February 2021 that Interpol issued a red notice for his arrest.

On 20 March 2021, Kaddour was arrested at Dubai airport. He was then transferred to Abu Dhabi, where an Emirati magistrate questioned him for two hours on the BRC and Augusta affairs, as well as his alleged recruitment – by the oil company ExxonMobil – as a consultant, shortly after he left Sonatrach.

At the end of his hearing, he was released; his passport was confiscated and he was forbidden to leave the UAE until the Algeria’s justice system agreed to his extradition.

Lawyers in Dubai

He hired Lutfi & Co Advocates and Legal Consultants, based in Dubai, to defend his interests. Founded in 1982, this firm has a good reputation in the UAE: it is where international drug lords, businessmen and politicians wishing to escape the clutches of their countries’ justice system find refuge. It handles more than 10% of the extradition cases that come before Emirati judges.

Lutfi & Co filed a petition to challenge the former Sonatrach CEO’s arrest and the charges laid against him for his extradition to Algeria. However, the appeal was rejected by an Emirati magistrate. To get some extra time, his lawyers then filed a similar appeal with Abu Dhabi’s High Court.

Rumours reached them about a possible deal between the Algerians and Emiratis to obtain Kaddour’s extradition. Was this true or a hoax? In any case, one of the firm’s lawyers said the Emirati justice system had not informed them whether or not their client would be returned to his country to be heard and judged.

Special plane

However, on 3 August, Kaddour was arrested by Emirati police officers in civilian clothes while he was sitting at a café in Dubai with one of his lawyers. He was taken to the ministry of the interior’s premises.

At the same time, a special plane took off from Algiers, bound for the UAE, to proceed with his extradition. On 4 August, Kaddour, wearing a blue suit and handcuffs, arrived at Algiers airport, where he was greeted by Algerian television cameras. He then appeared before an examining magistrate, who ordered his detention, and subsequent incarceration at the Koléa penitentiary.

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