Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour (b.1951) — who was Sonatrach CEO in 2017-2019 — was extradited from the UAE to Algeria on 4 August. Algeria’s Justice Ministry’s economic and financial criminal unit is pursuing him in two cases concerning:
- the disadvantageous 2018 acquisition of ExxonMobil’s Augusta refinery in Sicily; and
- the Brown & Root Condor (BRC) joint-venture established in 1993-1994 by Sonatrach (51%) and JBR (49%). The latter, which was previously called Kellogg Brown & Root, was a subsidiary of Halliburton whose 1995-2000 CEO was Dick Cheney who was US Defence Secretary ((1989-1993) and later Vice President (2001-2009).
Ould Kaddour was imprisoned in 2007 and sentenced for ‘espionage for the benefit of foreign powers’ in connection with the BRC affair. He was subsequently rehabilitated and appointed as Sonatrach’s CEO in March 2017. He now faces another spell in prison until his trial at an unscheduled date.
In May 2018, Sonatrach acquire the Augusta refinery for nearly US$1 billion in order to resolve Algeria’s petroleum product deficit. But it paid far too much for a dilapidated facility which could not even use Algerian crude oil as feedstock. At the end of 2019, Sonatrach had to take on a US$250 million loan to finance its rehabilitation. By then Ould Kaddour had been removed just days after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s April 2019 resignation. Fearing the worst, he fled abroad and was living in France while continuing to travel and give lectures until his ill-fated trip to the UAE.
Besides the Augusta and BRC cases, his name was also linked with the acquisition of high value real estate in Ibiza where, in 2017, it was revealed that 72,000 m2 of real estate was registered in the name of one of his sons.
Ould Kaddour’s life first came unstuck in 2007 when regime infighting led to the exposé of the BRC scandal. It had been established by the then energy minister Chakib Khelil and his partners as a massive scam whereby BRC would receive major state contracts at excessive prices, and millions could then be skimmed off.
BRC was immediately dissolved so the full details of the scam remained secret. In the subsequent court case, Ould Kaddour — who was appointed as BRC’s CEO by Khelil to manage the scam — took the blame for Khelil and was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment on trumped-up charge of espionage. On his release he apparently lived in the UAE. His reward for taking the rap in 2007 was to be appointed as Sonatrach’s CEO in 2017.
General Rachedi’s role in Ould Kaddour’s extradition
We now know that Ould Kaddour’s extradition was masterminded and personally handled by General Abdelghani Rachedi who heads the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure (DGSI). In his capacity as Algeria’s former military attaché in Abu Dhabi, he used his local networks to reach an agreement with the UAE.
According to our information, Rachedi managed this operation and secret negotiations with the UAE in close collaboration and under the aegis of the Algerian Presidency. No other security agency or service were involved so, contrary to what has been reported by certain media sources, the DDSE played no major role in this so-called ‘recovery’ operation. The DDSE, headed by Major-General Noureddine Makri (a.k.a. General Mahfoud), was side-lined which was probably for the reasons we explained last week (Algeria Politics and Security – 03.08.21). The DCSA also played no role in the operation, contrary to what has been claimed by some sources.
On 4 August, Rachedi was in the UAE to personally supervise the operation and even accompanied Ould Kaddour back to Algeria. He was therefore unable to attend that day’s High Security Council meeting which chaired by President Abdelmajid Tebboune. Amongst other things, however, it replaced Rachedi with General Hichem who was the head of the DGSI’s notorious Antar operational centre that used to be the former DRS’ main centre for interrogation and torture, and is still used by the DGSI for the same purposes.