MoroccoThe Predator King: an Exposé

Two French journalists explain the mechanisms through which Morocco’s King Mohammed VI tremendously expanded his wealth. Nothing new to Moroccans, but a blow to the West's "poster child image" of the kingdom.

A predator is a being that preys on the weak - it devours and destroys. Think bloodsuckers, buzzards and sharks. It seems harsh to liken any one person to a definition like that. Catherine Graciet and Eric Laurent, authors of The Predator King: Plundering Morocco, have no trouble drawing the connection, however. In their book, they explain the “predatory activities” of Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI, whose economic machinations have made him rich at the expense of his own country.

Such a publication comes at a cost, though; the book has since been banned in Morocco and the authors face similar restrictions. Graciet, who once worked as a journalist on the opposition newspaper Le Journal Hebdomadaire, is no longer allowed back into the country. Eric Laurent, even though he co-authored La Mémoire d'un Roi, the memoirs of Hassan II, Mohammed VI's father, is likewise barred from Morocco.

Not that the facts they published were anything new to Moroccans—the local press had revealed much of them during the 2000s—but Graciet and Laurent turned them into a book published by Seuil last March in France, thus exposing the monarchy’s hidden truth to the Western audience, long accustomed to see Morocco as a poster child for democratic aspirations. That, for Morocco’s royal palace, is an unpardonable offense. 

king Morocco alone
A Forbes’ 2009 report, “The World’s Richest Royals,” that shows Morocco’s king taking precedence over the Emirs of Qatar and Kuwait to clinch the seventh place spot. 

Graciet and Laurent cite a Forbes’ 2009 report, “The World’s Richest Royals,” that shows Morocco’s king taking precedence over the Emirs of Qatar and Kuwait to clinch the seventh place spot. With a fortune estimated at over $2.5 billion, he was the only royal to increase his wealth during a year of plunging stocks and sub-prime crises. While his money-making skills resulted in economic gains, they seem to have been limited to the personal sphere. At the time of the report, over 5 million Moroccan citizens were living on $1.20 per day, the poverty level had exceeded 18%, and the country ranked 126th out of 177 countries in terms of human development. The Predator King points out that some of the monarchy’s economic know-how could have helped prevent the dramatic disparity between rich and poor that increased during the reign of Mohammed VI.

Nonetheless, Mohammed VI had persuaded the population that his predecessor’s “years of lead” were over and that he would be the "king of the poor." Yet that title sounds odd when you donate 15 million euros to the Louvre in Paris. In The Predator King, Mohammed VI’s aloofness is laid bare to the Western public: he is virtually nonexistent in the international scene, and absent for the most part from domestic endeavors—and has abstained from all interviews with Moroccan journalists as well as refusing to hold press conferences. This is juxtaposed with his tight control and hyperactive involvement in his business affairs and, the authors say his “treatment of the country as a captive market subject to his will.” 

 

Morocco's public treasury dishes out one million dollars a day for the king's 12 royal palaces and 30 private residences. His royal automobiles are allocated $7.7 million and his fashion whims take $2.5 million from the national budget per year. 

The king derives a good portion of his wealth from the Société Nationale d’Investissement (SNI), an enormous company that controls big chunks of many major economic sectors in the country: banking, agriculture, distribution, construction materials, mining, telecommunications, real estate, energy, etc. Mounir Majidi, the king’s private secretary, spearheaded the concept of “national economic champion”—which makes the king, through SNI, a resource tycoon while his country struggles to make ends meet.

As if preying Morocco’s private economy was not enough, the state pays king Mohammed VI a monthly salary of $40,000—that’s twice as much as the French head of state. In addition to that, the Public Treasury dishes out one million dollars a day for the king’s 12 royal palaces and 30 private residences. His royal automobiles are allocated $7,738,200 and his fashion whims take $2,579,400 from the national budget per year. On top of all the bills paid by the state, the subsidized sector guarantees the royal businesses record profits. 

The monarchy couldn’t cover up all this corruption completely, however and the public did cry out for change. The king acquiesced—or so claimed outside politicos. During his recent official visit to Morocco on April 3, French President Hollande reiterated the myth that genuine political transition had occurred and praised “the process of democratic, economic, and social reform taking place at the king’s initiative.” But The Predator King shows the democratic transformations to be not much more than lip service. Throughout the book, Graciet and Laurent highlight the ways in which the Moroccan monarchy makes minimal changes for big gains – gains that fill the king’s pockets but leave the country empty-handed.  

*Jamila Waadallah, PhD, is a Moroccan-American professor of modern French literature and art history in New York. .

 
 

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#6 youssef 2013-05-29 02:46
Love the King, long live the King.
Benchemssi is just following a personal grudge, like those two journalists and the king's cousin. We Moroccans who actually live in Morocco love our King and will follow him even if it kills us all !
 
 
#5 brahim 2013-04-18 11:38
@Noureddine
One way to spread the word and the truth about the rotten regime of slavery is Facebook.
@Myriam
It`s "a deja vu" cliche overused by the regime in the past to hide its inefficiency, cowardice and devilish nature by blaming society ills on the king`s absence of knowledge about the matter...!! I`m glad this article opened your eyes and please spread the word...The hope is that one day Morocco as a country and people will free itself from enslavement and the tyranny from this feodale family.
 
 
#4 Meryiam 2013-04-17 16:34
I had been a fan of the king and I actually thought he just didn't know how bad it was for people. but after reading this i am pissed!

Every year crime increases and every year the out of work kids with no future get more and more violent, just breaking and robbing and hurting others to act out on their hopeless frusteration. They look at the few with the BMWs and the easy life and the gap is so extreme. They are getting more and more angry. They know they have no chance at getting a job without corruption and corruption requires money and connections; they know their education barely got them to write their name; they know if they even got a job it would pay maybe 100 bucks a month, maybe less...so they are getting more violent. The police have no computers, no system of anything. If the criminal changes their shirt than oops the police say, sorry we can't help you. If you get into trouble the police won't come unless there is blood. "oh your life is in danger? is there blood? no? sorry." if you want to go report a crime it had to have happened next to them or they won't even hear you. This country is so corrupt and getting worse. And then they ask why we leave! Why do f---king think??
 
 
#3 Noureddine 2013-04-17 14:41
I cannot fathom how the political forces could not change Morocco even though the injustice is huge, the cities are filled with kids living on streets. I mean, it is not just little corruption. It is forced corruption at the top!
Politicians in Morocco are an immoral breed. They all go to Hassan II mosque like it were done as the people's wish. We all know it was built by taking money by force and threatening people, the poor included.
 
 
#2 noureddine 2013-04-17 10:24
These numbers on the king part of our Budget will lead to a popular protest or revolution. I am sure. Now some one needs to make these numbers reach all Moroccans.