Long marred in controversy, Monjib walks the line between a hero of journalistic “freedom” and an “agent” of unrest.
Agadir – Maati Monjib, known for his illustrious careers in academia, human rights, business, and more recently, is embroiled in alleged embezzlement and money laundering schemes.
Controversy, meanwhile, is nothing new to Monjib.
In 1999, he started Ibn Rochd Center, a limited liability company (or SARL, in French), which closed doors in 2014. The closure was a result of governmental scrutiny regarding the source of its funding.
Moroccanl outlet Le360 claimed recently that Maati Monjib owned 98% of the shares of the organization, entrusting 1% to his sister, who held the post of director. The funding allegedly “came mainly from the Dutch NGO “Free Press Unlimited” and the “National Endowment,” an American organization.
“In five years, he transferred to these accounts MAD 3.5 million ($392,000) and was withdrawing amounts in cash,” the same report alleged.
While Monjib’s monthly salary does not exceed MAD 20,000 ($2000), he and his family reportedly enjoy luxury far beyond such means. According to the same account, over the last six years, he has acquired and registered some 34,840 square meters of land, as well as three apartments in the surroundings of Rabat.
Amid intensified suspicions over the source of Monjib’s financial assets and luxurious lifestyle, recent developments have brought back to life an investigation that has been going on since 2015.
Morocco’s public prosecution launched the inquiry after receiving reports from the Financial Information Processing Unit that show Monjib’s potential involvement in money laundering.
The Financial Information Processing Unit shared a list of large financial transfers and aforementioned real estate purchases. The sharing of such information falls in line with Article 18 of Law 43-05, relating to the fight against money laundering.
Over the years, Monjib has maintained his innocence. The academic has been quick to use his “politically motivated” troubles with Moroccan authorities to attack and delegitimize the country’s judicial institutions.
As far as Monjib is concerned, the charges against him are “purely political” and designed to “weaken [his] position before national and international public opinion.”
Amid ongoing investigations, Monjib has notably taken to social media to strenuously reject all “allegations” and reassure his sizable base of followers, readers, and admirers. “I assure the public opinion, again, that I am innocent,” he asserted in a recent Facebook post.
On October 12, 2020, Maati Monjib declared a hunger strike to once again reassert his innocence, accusing Moroccan authorities of targeting him for his political opinions and progressive ideological affiliations.
This is not the first time Monjib has accused Morocco’s judicial authorities of organizing a witch hunt against him.
In 2015, he declared a hunger strike in response to a travel ban against him. This, too, was related to investigations into his “financial violations.” In 2019, he again went on a hunger strike when the Rabat-based Institute of African Studies (IAS) was planning on firing him.
The institute invoked Monjib’s “frequent absenteeism” as the main reason for their plans to dismiss him. For his part, however, the historian claimed that the institution merely wanted to “punish him” for his human rights activism and his criticism of Moroccan authorities.
For critics, the academic’s numerous protestations and pronouncements against the evidence authorities have presented constitute a classic ploy most controversial human rights activists and public intellectuals rely on when seeking to garner public sympathy.
On December 29, as Monjib was enjoying a meal with his friends, he was taken into custody. As a result of the arrest, Monjib spent his New Year night in jail.
While he continues to maintain his innocence, authorities say that he has shown a total unwillingness to cooperate with the appropriate governmental institutions.
When he appeared before the court in the past, Monjib used his right to remain silent, giving no comments when questioned about the source and purpose of the large sums of money coming into his company and private accounts.
“Monjib has never provided any invoice or other supporting document explaining the origin of these transfers,” a source close to his company told Le360. “He used fraudulent practices to conceal data that could reveal the real activity of his company. He only presented invoices for his personal expenses for catering or travel”.
In response, Monjib is adamant that what authorities call “growing evidence” is a series of fabricated and politically motivated accounts of crimes he never committed. As both parties consistently cling to their side of the story, it remains to be seen what the following days and months will reveal in what is quickly becoming a judicial, political saga.