Mauritania’s former president, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, has been sentenced to five years in prison for money laundering and “illicit enrichment”. The court also ordered the confiscation of his illegally acquired assets.
Abdel Aziz led the West African country for a decade after coming to power in a 2008 coup and was an ally of Western powers fighting Islamist militants in the Sahel region. He stepped down in 2019 and was succeeded by his former right-hand man and ex-defence minister, Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani.
The charges against Abdel Aziz followed a year-long probe initiated by parliament into the handling of oil revenue, the sale of state property, the winding up of a publicly owned food-supply company and the activities of a Chinese fishing firm. A state prosecutor involved with the investigation in March said cash and assets worth the equivalent of about 96 million euros ($115 million) had been seized.
Abdel Aziz has denied any wrongdoing and said he is being persecuted in a bid to keep him out of politics⁴. He joined a small opposition party, Ribat National, in April in an attempt to salvage his political career after being expelled from the ruling Union for the Republic (UPR) party, which he had founded. He was jailed on Tuesday after refusing to continue reporting to police and seeking approval before leaving the capital.