Algeria’s central bank, Banque d'Algerie, has appointed an administrator to take over and run Khalifa Bank, amid fears that the mismanaged financial institution would place the country 's entire emerging private banking system at risk. Three bank executives were reportedly arrested at Algiers airport on February 24, about to board a private Paris-bound jet with $2.2 million cash in a suitcase.
The bank was placed under administrative receivership on March 3, after its owner, 36-year old businessman Rafik Abdelmoumen Khalifa, was announced incapable of “taking the required steps to stop the risk of deterioration in the bank's financial situation.” The bank was banned from making transfers outside Algeria since November 2002.
The bank is part of the Khalifa Group, a sprawling conglomerate founded by Rafik Khalifa, whose pharmaceutical business boomed in the 1990s, taking advantage of market liberalization policies in Algeria. His fortune is currently estimated at some $2.6 billion.
The bank employs 14,000 workers and operates 135 branches across the country. According to the owner, the bank’s 1.5 million clients have a total of over $1.5 billion in deposits. Several years ago, Khalifa Bank was denied a banking license to operate in France.
Khalifa Group’s ambitious foray into European markets has met with vigorous opposition in France. Over the past three months, the French press has published several front-page speculations over the origin Khalifa’s swelling funds, tarnishing the group’s corporate image, suggesting a link to corrupt Algerian military generals.
Over the last 12 years, the entrepreneurial Khalifa has expanded his business to include two airlines, a bank, an auto rental business, and construction and communications firms. Employing some 35,000 employees, Khalifa is now the third-largest group of companies in Algeria and the country’s biggest privately owned firm. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )