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Accusers of French tycoon say they faced 'intimidation', 'threats'

An accuser speaks during a press conference organised by the Moroccan Association for the Rights of Victims in Tangiers in northern Morocco on June 17, 2022   -  
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FADEL SENNA/AFP or licensors


Another woman has pressed sexual harassment charges in a case against French insurance tycoon Jacques Bouthier and a seventh suspect has been detained, lawyers in Morocco said Saturday.

Several young Moroccan women had lodged complaints last month against the 75-year-old, one of France's richest men, for alleged "people trafficking, sexual harassment and verbal and moral violence".

Since then, Moroccan authorities have detained several employees of Bouthier, who is under arrest in Paris over accusations of people trafficking and rape of a minor.

Meanwhile, the lawyer representing the women said that two men, a Frenchman and a Moroccan, have been indicted in Morocco as part of a sexual harassment investigation into the former CEO of the French group Assu 2000, Jacques Bouthier, and several of his staff.

The French defendant was placed in custody on Saturday after 48 hours, Aisha El Guella, president of the Moroccan Association for Victims' Rights (AMDV), told AFP on Sunday.

The Moroccan defendant was also presented on Saturday to the King's public prosecutor in Tangier who referred him to an investigating judge as part of the same investigation, but he was left free, the lawyer added.

8 people under investigation

The decisions bring to eight people -- two French and six Moroccans, including two women -- under investigation following complaints from former employees of the Assu 2000 brokerage group (renamed Vilavi) in the northern Moroccan port city.

Six of them have been placed under arrest and two others freed.

They are accused of "human trafficking", "sexual harassment", "indecent assault" and "verbal and moral abuse".

The alleged acts occurred between 2018 and April 2022 in the Moroccan subsidiary of the French brokerage giant in Tangiers.

"In total, seven cases are now pending against Bouthier and his accomplices," lawyer Abdelfattah Zahrach told a press conference in the northern Moroccan city of Tangiers on Saturday, adding: "The victims have decided to break the silence, and others will follow."

Aicha Guellaa, of the Moroccan Association for the Rights of Victims (AMDV), said a seventh suspect, of French nationality, had been detained and would appear before prosecutors on Saturday.

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

The women said they had faced repeated sexual harassment and intimidation between 2018 and this year, as well as threats to their jobs, in a country where many struggle to find work.

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

Sexual abuse victims often face social stigma, and young women at Saturday's press conference, wearing dark glasses to hide their identities, 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 of them said.

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