Rector probed over missing mosque funds

The head of a mosque in a Paris suburb has appeared in court charged with embezzlement for allegedly diverting donations into a personal offshore bank account.

Rector probed over missing mosque funds
Muslims at the Grande Mosque of Paris. AFP Photo/Miguel Medina

Mohamed Boudjedi, a rector in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre, is accused of taking hundreds of thousands of euros handed over by the faithful and meant for the building of a new mosque.

On Friday prosecutors in the case called for a two-year sentence with at least six months behind bars should he be found guilty.

Boudjedi was convicted in a separate embezzlement case in 2012, in which he was sentenced to 18 months with a six-month non-parole period for stealing €20,000 from his congregation.

The rector is back on trial along with eight others, all accused of being involved in the embezzlement of money given to the Islamic Association of Nanterre.

Prosecutors allege Boudjedi, the president of the association, diverted some €530,000 ($720,000) from the fund, and hid some of money in an offshore account in Cyprus.

"He abused the confidence of the faithful, an act that is particularly serious given that this new place of worship was much-anticipated," the prosecuting lawyer told the court.

But Boudjedi said: "I live on the money given by them. That money is for the mosque, for me, for my children."

That argument earned an admonition from Nanterre magistrate Isabelle Prevost-Desprez that the donations were "not intended to pay the family" of Boudjedi.

She also questioned him about how he had come to own a number of cars, including a Jaguar, a Mercedes and a BMW.

Boudjedi replied that the Jaguar was "a gift from a follower" and that "in any case, they are all old cars".

The court will give its verdict on October 2.

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