Morocco sex abuse case against French tycoon widens

Morocco sex abuse case against French tycoon widens

An accuser reacts during a news conference organised by the Moroccan Association for the Rights of Victims (AMDV) in Tangiers in northern Morocco on June 17
An accuser reacts during a news conference organised by the Moroccan Association for the Rights of Victims (AMDV) in Tangiers in northern Morocco on June 17. Photo: FADEL SENNA / AFP
Source: AFP

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Morocco has detained a seventh suspect in a sexual abuse and trafficking case against French insurance tycoon Jacques Bouthier, while a seventh woman has lodged a case against him, lawyers said Saturday.

Bouthier, 75 and one of France's richest men, is being held in Paris on suspicion of child rape and trafficking.

He is also under investigation in Morocco along with several of his employees, for alleged "people trafficking, sexual harassment and verbal and moral violence".

"In total, seven cases are now pending against Bouthier and his accomplices" in Morocco, lawyer Abdelfattah Zahrach told a news conference in the northern city of Tangiers.

"The victims have decided to break the silence, and others will follow."

Aicha Guellaa of the Moroccan Association for the Rights of Victims (AMDV), also a lawyer, said a French national, the seventh suspect to be detained in Morocco, was remanded in custody and set to appear before prosecutors on Saturday.

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Five employees of Bouthier's insurance group Assu2000, later renamed Vilavi, were detained in Tangiers on July 6, while a sixth was charged but released.

Sexual abuse victims in Morocco often face social stigma, but five young women appeared at Saturday's press conference, wearing dark glasses to hide their identities.

Those who spoke said they had faced intimidation in the media and online.

"The nightmare continues. They have threatened us, insulted us and even tried to bribe us, but without success," one said.

The alleged victims say they had faced repeated sexual harassment and intimidation between 2018 and this year, as well as threats of being sacked, a serious prospect in a country where many struggle to find work.

The latest revelations come after French prosecutors last month indicted two men -- one of them a police officer -- in relation to the Bouthier sex trafficking case.

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Bouthier is also facing charges of plotting kidnap and possession of child pornography.

Guellaa said Bouthier and his co-accused had formed "an organised criminal gang" and that more Moroccan victims would likely come forward.

"He thought he could sexually exploit young women with complete impunity," she said.

Another woman who spoke at Saturday's press conference said she had been "really scared of reprisals" after coming forward.

"I saw that they were capable of everything," she said.

"But we won't back down. We won't stop until the entire Bouthier mafia is behind bars."

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Source: AFP

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