This is not the first time that Polisario members face such an employment scandal.
Rabat – Algeria’s Ain Temouchent court has sentenced leading members of the Polisario Front to sentences ranging between life imprisonment and three years in prison for their involvement with a car trafficking network active between Algeria and Spain.
The court found the Polisario “officers” guilty of trafficking cars registered in Spain. The affair has been ongoing since 2017.
The accused separatist officials used their status as “refugees” to benefit from an exemption from customs duties to transfer the cars from Valencia to Mostaganem, Algeria. They would then put the cars on sale in the Algerian market.
The Polisario Front members also forged the vehicles’ identity documents before selling them on the Algerian market without paying tax imposed by Algerian customs, the court ruled.
The court also found out that the network, in which leading members of the Polisario Front are involved, trafficked more than 3,000 vehicles over the years.
The court said the separatists also “deceived” Algerian citizens, who acquired the second-used cars with forged documents.
Algerian authorities have not yet compensated citizens who bought their cars from the network yet.
This is not the first time members of the Polisario Front face embezzlement and illegal trafficking scandals. Several rights NGOs and activists have long documented and decried Polisario’s involvement in empanelment affairs.
In July 2020, the Taxpayers’ Association of Europe—a federation of 29 national taxpayers’ associations— urged the European Commission to respond to Algeria and the Polisario’s ongoing embezzlement of humanitarian aid.
Morocco’s Al istiqlal (Independence) Party made the same request in October 2020 in a letter to the European Parliament, asking the parliament to intervene to protect distressed Sahrawis from the Polisario Front’s constant aid embezzlement
The humanitarian aid is often sent by international organizations to benefit Sahrawis living in the Tindouf camps.
Several reports, including by the UN Secretary General, have highlighted the dire conditions in which Sahrawis live in the camps. Most still suffer malnutrition and attending illnesses, including anemia due to lack of clean drinking water and food.
In 2019, the president of the Canary Sahrawi Forum Miguel Angel Ortiz condemned Polisario’s corruption and embezzlement of humanitarian aid. The activist accused Polisario of misusing some €2.5 million of humanitarian aid from the international community for Sahrawis living in Tindouf camps.
Even pro-Polisario news outlets have often reported on embezzlement of aid, showing products intended for distressed Sahrawis being marketed in Algerian markets.