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Morocco: Eight charged in sex abuse case against French tycoon

An accuser speaks during a press conference organised by theMoroccan Association for the Rights of Victims in Tangiers in northern Morocco on June 17, 2022,   -  
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Moroccan authorities have charged eight suspected collaborators of French insurance tycoon Jacques Bouthier in a sexual abuse and trafficking case, lawyers for the complainants said Thursday.

Bouthier, 76 and one of France's richest men, is being held in Paris on suspicion of child rape and trafficking.

The case in Morocco opened in June 2022 when four former employees of a local subsidiary of Bouthier's insurance group Assu2000, later renamed Vilavi, pressed charges against him.

The eight suspects -- six Moroccans including two women, and two Frenchmen -- have been charged at a criminal court in the northern city of Tangiers with human trafficking, sexual harassment, "incitement to debauchery" and aiding a crime, said lawyer Nezha Khoubiza.

Four of them are currently in detention, added another lawyer for the complainants, Karima Salama, during a news conference in Rabat.

"A ninth suspect in the case, a Frenchman, has died in a recent car accident," Salama said.

The accusations include repeated sexual harassment and intimidation between 2018 and April 2022 in the Tangiers offices of Assu 2000, led at the time by Bouthier.

An investigative judge completed his probe in January, a lawyer for the accusers said at the time.

In a news conference last year, the women said they had been sacked from the firm after refusing to "give in to harassment and blackmail" over their employment by Bouthier and other French and Moroccan executives.

Such public declarations are rare in Morocco, where sexual abuse victims often face social stigma.

One of the complainants said on Thursday: "This case has shaken our lives. We are in a vulnerable and stressful situation, but the opening of the trial is a good thing."

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