The trial of 104 people linked to Algeria's biggest financial scandal opened Monday without the main accused, who is living in exile in Britain, and six other defendants who are on the run. On the first day of the trial, the chief judge in charge of El Khalifa Bank case has rejected the defence lawyers' request to release 31 defendants put into custody.
The case started with the success story of Abdelmoumene Rafik Khalifa who was known as Algerian "golden boy," but ended in what has been called “the Century Scandal.” In 2003, Khalifa group was dissolved, following investigation by Algerian authorities which uncovered violations on money transfer law. It came after two Khalifa Bank’s executives were arrested in Algiers airport trying to smuggle 2 million Euros.
This issue immediately attracted the authorities' attention to the activities of El Khalifa Bank which was Algeria's largest private bank. In a matter of weeks, Khalifa Bank was suspected in criminal mismanagement and money laundering. The Bank, owned by Abdelmoumene Rafik Khalifa, was closed and all the clients lost their money. This scandal, which involved prominent Algerian figures, has not just affected the Bank but also the other firms of Khalifa group, including Khalifa Airways, Khalifa informatique and Khalifa rent a car.
Documents presented to the court revealed the involvement of top Algerian officials from different public bodies in the affair, as part of which hundreds of millions of dinars were transferred abroad by some Khalifa Banks’ executives.
8th of January 2007, marked the start of the trial. The case will be heard in Blida.
Abdelmoumene Khalifa himself is not in Blida. He has been living in London where he enjoys the status of a refugee. The Algerian authorities have exerted many efforts to get Khalifa extradited, but so far it seems the British authorities are not willing to respond positively.