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Algeria detains businessman in corruption investigation - radio

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria has detained businessman Hassan Larbaoui in a corruption investigation launched after protests ended the rule of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, state radio said on Friday as demonstrators returned to the streets to demand change.

Larbaoui is director of a private company called Global Group, which runs a car assembly plant set up in joint venture with South Korea’s Kia Motors.

Bouteflika stepped down on April 2 under pressure from the army after mass protests that began in February, demanding an end to his 20-year rule and calling for his ruling elite to be held to account for corruption.

The army, which now holds sway, has promised to act.

Tens of thousands were protesting in Algiers again on Friday, demanding the departure of interim President Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, who they see as part of the old guard that has run the North African country since independence from France in 1962.

The court of first instance in Algiers ordered Larbaoui to be detained, along with the head of state bank Banque Nationale d’Algerie (BNA) and two industry ministry officials, state radio reported.

Larbaoui’s legal representative was not immediately available for comment. The joint venture company could not be reached for comment. BNA declined to comment.

On Thursday, the same court referred ex-Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and two former industry ministers, Youcef Yousfi and Mahdjoub Bedda, to the public prosecutor to be investigated for alleged corruption related to the same case, state radio said.

Ouyahia and other officials could not immediately be reached for comment, nor could their representatives.

The seven are being investigated on accusations of “dissipation of public funds, illegal privileges and money laundering”, the radio said.

The supreme court also ordered the detention of Ouyahia and another former prime minister, Abdelmalek Sellal, last week for “dissipation of public funds and awarding illegal privileges” in a separate corruption case.

Mourad Eulmi, head of family-owned firm SOVAC, partner of Germany’s Volkswagen AG at a car assembly plant in western Algeria, was detained earlier this week over corruption allegations.

In Friday’s protests, demonstrators held up banners directed ruling elite, saying: “Thieves, you have destroyed the country.”

Others read: “Algeria is a free and democratic country”.

Authorities have postponed a presidential election previously planned for July 4 because of a lack of candidates, with no new date set for the vote.

Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Ulf Laessing, Edmund Blair and