Morocco: “Saharan Pablo Escobar” scandal intensifies

Morocco: “Saharan Pablo Escobar” scandal intensifies

The “Saharan Pablo Escobar” case has been on the lips of Moroccans since the final days of 2023 as details about a huge drugs and politics scandal are beginning to unfold, according to Jeune Afrique, January 8. 

The “Pablo Escobar of the Sahara” that everybody is talking about? El Hadj Ahmed Ben Brahim, a dubious drug lord born in Kidal, Mali in 1976. He has been detained since 2019 and recently revealed that he had over twenty “associates”. 

Following the revelations that he had notable accomplices, Casablanca’s Court of Appeal ordered provisional detentions for 25 Moroccan politicians and other public figures on December 22. 

The scandal is at the top of the agenda amongst the political class given that it could put some lawmakers’ political careers in jeopardy. 

Ben Brahim lived a normal life in Mali working as a shepherd before reportedly meeting a French man lost in the desert who ironically led him astray. 

Spiraling into a life of crime, he started importing and exporting luxurious cars and gold between Africa and Europe alongside the French national, who it was revealed was a dodgy businessman. 

READ: Morocco: 4.6 tonnes of cannabis seized by authorities

Following the selling of luxuries, Ben Brahim descended into the drug market, trafficking drugs from Latin America, notorious for its drug operations, to across the African continent and then into Europe via Morocco. 

Ben Brahim was first arrested in 2015 in the Mauritanian desert after a long police chase and was released four years after. 

As a free man he opted to return back to Morocco but was arrested yet again that same year at Casablanca Airport. 

Although he has over twenty accomplices, only a couple have been named publicly. These are Said Naciri, the President of the Wydad AC, a Casablanca-based football team who currently play in the Moroccan top flight, and Abdenebi Biioui, the President of the Oujda region as well as a notable figure in the kingdom’s infrastructure industry.   

The pair have strong connections to the monarchist Modernity and Authenticity Party (PAM), one of three parties who make up the coalition government alongside the Istiqlal Party and The National Rally of Independents. 

There are speculations that the scandal could result in a coalition government’s defeat at the next set of elections or that the coalition could fall apart before any parliamentary elections taking place.

In response to the fiasco Abdellatif Ouahbi, PAM’s chief, and Justice Minister, submitted his resignation to the political bureau, admitting some form of responsibility however it was turned down. 

Jeune Afrique/ TSA


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