The Casablanca Files: Sex, Drugs and Lies

Casablancans have been intrigued by newly released lists that purport to identify those using illicit drugs and involved in sexual escapades, but it turns out the lists were fabricated by a local notary for as yet unknown reasons.

al-monitor Two veiled women confer during a protest in Casablanca, March 6, 2009. Photo by REUTERS/Rafael Marchante.

Thèmes

world wide web, scandal, drugs, business, morocco, media, internet

juil. 22, 2013

When an apparent police-file leak on the Internet proves to be aimed at settling scores, what else could the story be about other than a Casablancan notary public who wanted to play the role of upholder of justice by accusing her former “friends” of engaging in cocaine-dusted orgies?

The scenario seems like something from Wikileaks, the Moroccan way. On June 5, 2013, Maarifpress.com revealed several lists of figures from Casablanca's business world who had been accused of using hard drugs, forming networks of cocaine trafficking, and even organizing orgies that involved underage girls. More than 170 pages included three lists, enumerating dozens of names along with personal details such as addresses, phone numbers, vehicle registration numbers, social contacts, and even physical descriptions.

At first glance, you might think that such files could only be the work of the police or of an experienced detective (who, if you ask me, has serious issues with proper French, obviously writing in an inept style). Could it have been a leak? The General Directorate of National Security (DGNS), which evidently hopes to preserve its credibility, took its time answering. On June 20, 2013, the directorate announced that these lists in fact had nothing to do with the police and that the alleged perpetrator had been arrested. Police said the culprit is a notary public from Casablanca who has already been at odds with the law.

The anonymous sender and the journalist

“The DGNS took things very seriously from the beginning, not only to clear its name, but also to check the charges against the dozens of people,” explained a security source. There was a need to act quickly, especially since some newspapers and electronic sites seized these lists to describe the “nights of debauchery of the Casablancan gilded youth.” On June 10, 2013, the attorney general in Casablanca ordered the National Brigade of the Judicial Police (BNPJ) to launch an investigation. Ten days later, Aisha Messaoudi, a 40-year-old notary public, was arrested. On the same day, she had a hearing with the Anti-Drug Trafficking National Office, which is part of the BNPJ. After that, she did not give investigators a hard time before telling them the story of the infamous lists — especially after they seized her computer and that of Maarifpress.com’s site manager, who is based in Rabat.

According to judicial sources, the notary public knew — better yet, had socialized with — most of the people she framed, either in the course of her work or through mutual friends. She also admitted to having begun working on the lists in 2004 — a job she completed in 2006, saving her files on the hard drive of a laptop for use at the appropriate time. That time finally came on June 4, 2013. Messaoudi decided to publish the lists and spoke with Fathallah Rifai, journalist and director of Maarifpress.com, whom she presented to investigators as a family friend. However, first it was necessary to extract the data stored on the computer, which was out of order. It was repaired during the day by handymen at the Bab El Had joutiya (a local flea market). The next day, the lists were published on Maarifpress.com, which presents itself as a national information website. Unbeknownst to all, it is actually one of those dormant sites that only go active to create a buzz when a scandal breaks out.

Blind revenge?

Asked about her motives, Messaoudi says she wanted to reveal the “true colors” of a group of people she calls the “merchants of death.” But why exactly? There are several explanations going around, but the most plausible is her desire to retaliate against a circle of friends who abandoned her when she was in trouble. Messaoudi had been sentenced to 1.5 years in prison in 2010 for embezzlement (she had embezzled millions of dirhams in deposits from her customers). She was imprisoned in Oukacha, and the sentence was reduced to one year after a retrial in 2011. Since then, she has held a severe grudge against the friends who did not even bother to visit her once.

This version of the story was rejected by several people mentioned on the lists of the notary public and interviewed by the BNPJ. Most of them denied knowing Messaoudi or admitted to having met her on rare occasions in some public places in Casablanca. Yet all of them expressed their willingness to sue her for soiling their reputations and for her abusive slander.

Brought before the Court of First Instance in Casablanca, Messaoudi has been officially accused of spreading false allegations and issuing bad checks in connection with another case. Her trial began on June 25, 2013, before being adjourned to a later date to be determined. After her first appearance before the court, she confessed to having published these lists to get back at her former “friends.” Nevertheless, this case is still overshadowed by doubt, and it will likely become the legal saga of the month of Ramadan. The first thing that can be deduced from the lists is that they contain the names of young businessmen who are active in the real estate sector. The accused being a notary, we can easily see a connection.

The director of Maarifpress.com should also be subject to prosecution for spreading false information, under the provisions of the Press Code. Contacted by Tel Quel, Rifai refused to make any comments. However, he confessed to investigators that his biggest mistake was his complete trust in the Casablancan notary who did not have any evidence to support her accusations. On Monday July 15, 2013, Maarifpress.com disappeared from the web for a few days before reappearing online. The famous lists have gone down the drain, but the damage is already done.

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