Former chairman of Morocco’s Raja arrested in graft probe

Former chairman of Morocco’s Raja arrested in graft probe

RABAT: A Moroccan court ordered the arrest Friday of a former chairman of one of the country’s largest football clubs, Raja Casablanca, in a “corruption” probe, a judicial source told AFP.

The investigation comes as the North African country prepares to host the next edition of the African Cup of Nations, which is supposed to be held next year, as well as the 2030 World Cup.

The investigating judge at the Casablanca court ordered former Raja chairman Aziz El Badraoui and lawmaker Mohamed Karimine to be “placed in pre-trial detention on suspicion of squandering public funds, embezzlement and forgery”, said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.

The decision came at the request of the public prosecutor after the suspects were questioned earlier this week about deals signed between a waste collection company owned by El Badraoui and the municipality of Bouznika, a satellite city of Rabat headed by Karimine.

Karimine is currently a representative of the Istiqlal Party, which forms part of Morocco’s governing coalition.

El Badraoui, a businessman who served as Raja’s chairman from 2022 to 2023, is the latest in a string of public figures in Morocco to face allegations of corruption.

Last December, Said Naciri, president of Wydad AC — the country’s most successful football club and Raja’s archrival — was arrested as part of an investigation into drug trafficking alongside Abdenbi Bioui, another political figure.

Twenty-five defendants are being investigated on suspicion of taking part in an “international drug-trafficking” scheme led by Malian national El Hadj Ahmed Ben Brahim, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2019.

Hearings have been set for Naciri and Bioui on February 14 and 15 respectively.

The Moroccan branch of global corruption watchdog Transparency International said last week that 29 members of the country’s parliament had been prosecuted for corruption in recent years, a figure it described as “very worrying”.

Morocco has fallen by 24 places in the watchdog’s global corruption rankings in five years, coming in at 97th out of 180 countries in 2023. -AFP

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