“Madame Maya” or the trial of Bouteflika’s hidden fake girl

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Former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in Algiers, in December 2012.


© DENIS ALLARD
Former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in Algiers, in December 2012.

Nachinachi Zoulikha had used rumors of his family link to the president to cash in on his influence. His trial is a plunge into the corrupt and clan system of the old regime.

For public opinion, it was until then a sulphurous name, without a face. The one nicknamed “Madame Maya”, her real name Nachinachi Zoulikha, attracted all eyes on Wednesday at the court of Chéraga (Algiers). For the first day of his trial, a long procession of journalists, lawyers and witnesses stretched out at the entrance to the courtroom, too small to contain the curious as well. The appeal of the accused, ten, outlines the way in which Algeria was managed during the twenty-year reign of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, forced to resign on April 2, 2019. Before their detention, they were ministers, walis (prefects), police officers and businessmen. They are now being prosecuted for “Influence peddling”, “abuse of office”, “corruption“And “Violation of foreign exchange regulations”.

At the center of the network, this mysterious Madame Maya. Revealed by the magistrate, his date of birth, November 1955, caused amazement. “How could they all be fooled and believe that she is really the daughter of Bouteflika … born in 1937”, lets go a witness sitting at the back of the room. Surrounded by gendarmes, the defendant advances towards the bar, with a slow step, bent over, dressed in a black djellaba, her head covered by a white lace shawl. After several months of incarceration, her appearance now contrasts with her reputation as a powerful woman, having at her disposal the entire panel of senior regime officials.

“The boss”, as her entourage liked to call her, nevertheless retained a touch of arrogance. Speaking exclusively in French, she retorts at the start of her hearing: “It is not forbidden to work and earn money. ” But his sentences quickly become confused, choppy. His daughter whispers his answers to him. The magistrate protests. “She loses her memory”, she justifies herself.

“Surveillance cameras”

Madame Maya’s beginnings in the business world were modest. In the 90s, the fabric trader seemed to have the greatest difficulty in establishing herself. But the arrival of Abdelaziz Bouteflika to power in 1999 opened up an unexpected prospect for him. After several courtesy visits, she took the plunge in 2004. “I went to see Bouteflika, a friend of my father’s, to solve the problem of the amusement park that I had to build in Chlef”, she confirms in audience. The President’s private secretary, Mohamed Rougab, was then instructed to establish contact with the wali (senior official) of this locality, Mohamed Ghazi. A 15 hectare site is immediately made available to Madame Maya.

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“‘Take care of this woman, she is from the President’s family,” Mohamed Rougab told me over the phone, “ tells Mohamed Ghazi, key man in this affair. The former state executive, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, joined the box of defendants supported by the officers of the prison establishment. It was through him that Madame Maya, at the time, approached the Director General of National Security, Abdelghani Hamel. “Mohamed Ghazi introduced her to me as Bouteflika’s daughter. We ate together at his place one evening, then I saw her again when her house was broken into. She asked me to protect her and put surveillance cameras on her. That’s what I did”, relates the major general.

Chalet in Spain

All these state resources mobilized for the benefit of Madame Maya dispel the doubts of the most skeptical. The rumor of his family link with the Bouteflika family is accredited. Police officers even take care of the training of his dogs. Once introduced into the seraglio circuit, Nachinachi Zoulikha expands her address book, multiplies requests for favors from senior officials. Over the years, it has become essential to land a market, a promotion. Businessmen and traders jostle in front of his residence, the famous villa 143 of the Morreti State Residence.

His lobbying pays him big. A misappropriation of real estate and lots of land of the order of 700 million dinars (4.5 million euros), argues the lawyer of the Public Treasury, to which are added 25 kilos of gold and 1.5 million euros in illicit transfers abroad. Pactole having been used to purchase two apartments and a chalet in Spain. The rights granted to her at the airport allow her and her two daughters to go out illegally, on each trip, between 10,000 and 15,000 euros.

Mad with anger

The year 2017 marks the end of the scam. Mohamed Ghazi, in the meantime appointed Minister of Labor, telephones the Wali of Oran and recommends two investors sent by Madame Maya. Visitors are greedy, daring. They obtain operating contracts in the industrial activity zone of Oran. The wali, promoted to Minister of Public Works, was however moved by Said Bouteflika, the influential brother of the President. Mad with anger, the latter retorts: “They are not sent by my brother but by Madame Maya, with whom we are not related.” At the instigation of Said Bouteflika, the security services immediately tracked down Madame Maya and questioned her for several days before releasing her.

The investigation will remain suspended for twenty-six months, until July 2019. In the wake of the purge targeting the entourage of the deposed president, a search is carried out in villa 143. Within its walls, the gendarmes are excavating 9.5 billion cents (approximately 700,000 euros), 270,000 euros, 30,000 dollars, 17 kilos of gold and several false travel documents. Madame Maya is imprisoned, like dozens of executives of the old regime. On Friday, fifteen years in prison were required against Nachinachi Zoulikha and Mohamed Ghazi, twelve years against the former director general of the police Abdelghani Hamel.

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