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Morocco: Leniency with Corrupt High Level Officials Must End

By Brahim Koulila

Morocco World News

Kenitra, Morocco, June 13, 2012

Morocco has always stagnated, at the political and economic levels, because of kleptocracy: it has been ruled by some dishonest officials for whom power is a golden opportunity to line up their pockets, not to serve their community. Indeed, since his ascension to power, King Mohamed VI has been doing his best to cleanse Morocco from such people. With the coming of the PJD (Justice and Development Party), a lot of people have become optimistic about doing away with —at least relatively— such ignoble practices of embezzling Moroccans’ money. It is good to send corrupt people to prison, but selectiveness could undermine all efforts for real change.

Sending some Moroccan high officials to prison is a good step. Khalid Alioua, the former president of CIH (Crédit Immobilier et hotelier); Abdelhanin Benalou, the former head of ONDA (Office National des airports) and Tawfiq Alibrahimi, the former CEO of Tangiers’ Mediterranean Airport have been sent to prison for abuse of power, corruption, nepotism, among other allegations. Arresting such (high) officials, who have enjoyed good reputation and the respect of King Mohamed VI for a long time, is a good sign: rarely are such people sent to prison even when proven guilty. Indeed, some people cannot but think that the current government is intent on changing the status quo and doing away with corruption in Morocco. However, there should be no exception when it comes to punishment.

Benkirane’s cabinet should wage a war against corruption. Morocco, doubtless, will not go forward through such sporadic measures. Making some people scapegoats to absorb Moroccans’ anger is not what we aspire to. We want the government to launch a huge campaign, so to speak, to eradicate corruption. Only then can we feel real change. It goes without saying that the likes of Alioua, Alibrahimi and Benalou are too many in Morocco, unfortunately. Punishing them would sure deter any would-be corrupt officials. Indeed, when we punish a handful of people and turn a blind eye to others’ horrible crimes, we just tell them that real change will not come and that we are supporting them.

Morocco needs such a campaign to recover its stolen public funds. Most corrupt people have secret accounts abroad. Sometimes even their relatives do not know about them and cannot reach them after their death. Simply put, the government certainly knows who are corrupt figures in Morocco and making them return what they have embezzled should be among its priorities. Sending people to prison and letting them get away with money will never solve the problem of corruption and will not contribute to deterring the others at all: we all know how our officials live when “they go to prison”. They live like kings and do not really feel disgraced, because they know millions of dirhams, if not dollars, will be awaiting them when they are released.

If the Moroccan government started punishing corrupt officials in Morocco and recovering Morocco’s stolen money, the country would definitely benefit. The country has been mirred in backwardness and poverty only because of kleptocracy. Our money abroad could solve much of our economic and social problems. We should not be complacent about seeing a few people go to prison; this is far from solving Morocco’s problems. It is high time that Moroccans got back their money and benefited from it. As such, any official proven guilty must return what he has embezzled.

The affairs of Khalid Alioua, Benalou and Alibrahimi should not mislead us. There are some people who are certainly much worse than them and who have benefited from “the policy of selectiveness with regard to punishment.” Every corrupt person must pay for what he or she has done.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy

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