June 7, 2015 / 12:21 PM / 4 years ago

Algeria arrests importers, bank officials in graft crackdown - state radio

ALGIERS, June 7 (Reuters) - Algerian authorities have arrested 17 people including importers and bank officials as the country tightens control on imports and corruption to help counter the effect of low world oil prices, a judicial source and official media said on Sunday.

Security services are coordinating with Interpol, seeking the arrest of other people based abroad and suspected of membership of a network that has violated laws on imports and money transfer, state radio said.

OPEC member Algeria, feeling the impact of the oil price slump, has been trying to cut import bills, which reached $58 billion in 2014, almost the same level of energy revenues in the North African OPEC producer.

Ten importers and four state and private bank officials were among 17 arrested in the western city of Oran.

They were accused of illegally transferring 26 million euros and $5 million and planning to transfer 124 million euros, state radio said. Imports were enabled by bank officials who provided loans.

“They inflated import bills. Their goal was to set up a smelting works plant with equipment that does not meet standards,” a judicial source told Reuters.

Algeria has announced a series of measures to counter the fall in crude prices. Oil and gas exports account for 97 percent of the country’s sales abroad. The state budget also relies on energy earnings for 60 percent.

The government this year said it would introduce import licence restrictions, saying details will be made public later.

Courts are also dealing with several graft scandals involving local officials and foreign firms that are being sent to trial. (Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; editing by Patrick Markey and Ralph Boulton)

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