Photograph — oasisfest

MAD 1.2 million (about $125,000) has magically parted ways with the cash convoy of Bank Al Maghrib, Morocco’s central bank, during a delivery trip to Northern Morocco, prompting an internal investigation. The money was reportedly taken from a cash-provision convoy, a road-trip operation the bank conducts nationwide carrying cash from its Rabat headquarters, while accompanied by heavy security.

According to a bank statement, the convoy typically includes bank staff and Royal Gendarmerie officers, with cash-stuffed coffers holding MAD 200,000 each. The convoy had reportedly made stops in Kenitra, Larache, Tangier. But the theft was only discovered at its final destination in Tetouan, where receiving bank agents decided to count by hand and discovered the coffers had been tampered with.

While the scale and history of this Moroccan disappearance remains unknown, we can hazard potential guilty guesses from a few continental examples, many of them wonderful and riveting. Once, it was a snake in Nigeria. At another time, a monkey in Nigeria. And there have been bigger, far more organized central bank thefts elsewhere. $104 million went missing in Liberia, prompting national outcry and botched investigations.

Mahgbrib bank’s highest decision making body and the Royal Gendarmerie are collaborating on an investigation, with a stated desire to punish the identified culprit(s) and a hint that other investigations could opened into previously unrecorded thefts. But Morocco uses harsher words for punishing thefts than it does actual punishments. Two months after King Mohamed VI reportedly told his new appointee to the National Commission for Probity to “go far” in corruption prosecution, two regional politicians who had stolen about MAD 40 million received light one or two-year sentences. The collaborators behind the Mahgrib money would be doing the math for expected punishment for MAD 1.2 million.

One positive development, however, is that the country lost eight places in last year’s corruption index, moving from 81st in 2017 to 73rd in 2018. Depending on how it resolves this ongoing “money Houdini” situation, Morocco’s position could change by the next time Transparency International publishes its global corruption perception index.

By Caleb Ajinomoh

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