Rabat – Former member of Morocco’s Parliament and alleged drug smuggler Said Chaou, will be guaranteed “a fair trial” following his extradition to Morocco, said the Moroccan Ministry of Justice following his arrest in the Netherlands on Thursday.
Moroccan authorities requested the extradition of Chaou following drug smuggling allegations that were made public this week.
“When the procedure of his extradition is completed, he [Chaou] will be judged before competent Moroccan judiciary authorities for the crimes he is accused of, in total accordance with Moroccan law and respect of the guarantees for fair trial,” said the ministry in a communiqué released on Thursday.
The ministry added that Chaou’s arrest is the result of “solid judicial cooperation” between Morocco and the Netherlands in countering organized crime, and praised the positive response of the Dutch authorities to the request made by their Moroccan counterparts.
“This [positive response] is an indication that justice in Morocco maintains trust internationally”, stated the release. “It also confirms the positive perception of efforts made by the Moroccan justice system, which remains attached to the primacy of law, respects human rights and ensures fair trial as universally recognized”.
The Ministry pointed out that the request to arrest the former MP was made in line with international cooperation procedures, and that it was not the first time that an international arrest warrant had been issued against him.
A warrant was issued for Chaou’s arrest in 2015 , and later that year he was arrested in Roosendaal, Holland, in a joint Dutch, French and Spanish police operation over suspicions of drug trafficking. Dutch news website Omro Brabant reported that during a search of his home, police found EUR 140,000 in cash. Nonetheless, he was released due to lack of evidence.
As a former MP who represented the parliamentary coalition led by the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) between 2007 and 2013, Chaou fled from Morocco to the Netherlands after the arrest of his alleged partner in drug trafficking, Najib Zaimi.
Prior to entering politics, Chaou was a businessman well-known in his native Rif region as a successful immigrant in Holland, where he owned several coffee shops.
After fleeing Morocco, he became an active member in “18 September Movement for the Independence of Rif”, a separatist group advocating for the independence of the northen Moroccan region.
He has since been suspected of being the movement’s financier.