Mauritania’s ex-president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and several other senior figures were at a police station Wednesday awaiting possible corruption charges, a police official said.
About 30 people were waiting to be interviewed by the state prosecutor Ahmedou Ould Abdallah in the capital Nouakchott, added the officer, who declined to be named.
The prosecutor is expected to complete his hearings with the group in the coming days, before deciding whether to recommend charges.
Aziz, 64, seized power in 2008 and served two terms as president before being succeeded in August 2019 by Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani, his former right-hand man and ex-defence minister.
Ghazouani has kept Aziz at arm’s length since he came to power, however.
Last year, the parliament in the vast Saharan nation of 4.5 million people established a commission to investigate suspected embezzlement under Aziz.
Among other issues, the inquiry probed the handling of oil revenue, the sale of state property, the winding up of a publicly owned food-supply company and the activities of a Chinese fishing firm.
Police then detained Aziz in August for questioning in the case, before stripping him of his passport.
The former president refused to answer their questions, however, and accuses Ghazouani of seeking to settle scores.
It was not immediately clear which other officials were in custody alongside Aziz on Wednesday.
But the police officer said the group includes two former prime ministers and 11 ex-government ministers, as well as businessmen connected to the case.
Mohameden Ould Icheddou, one of Aziz’ lawyers, said that his client will continue to refuse questions, claiming legal immunity afforded to ex-presidents under Mauritania’s constitution.
He added that the case is “unwelcome because the situation in our country calls for reconciliation and appeasement”.