An extremely popular Facebook page in Morocco is spreading slanderous comments from Quebec about influential Moroccans, with the aim of extorting money from them. The individual singled out by the victims, who complains of being the target of death threats in Quebec, remains untouchable despite the arrest of possible accomplices by the Casablanca judicial police.
The page is called Lfercha – which means “the scandal” in Arabic – and has 431,000 subscribers. Facebook’s description describes it as a “news website” administered from Quebec.
For several months, dozens of Moroccans, many of them business people, have been portrayed as criminals, thieves and adulterous spouses.
“He accused me of prostitution and pimping,” denounces Iqbal Boufous, a businesswoman from Agadir. “He does this to extort (money). Morocco is a Muslim society; imagine the impact such gossip can have on a woman. I have a strong personality and I didn’t pay, but others did, unfortunately. »
“It is a real internet mafia, which works in an organized gang and which breaks up families with defamation, slander and insults,” denounces Elkabouss Abousoufiane, a Moroccan businessman whom Lfercha made a mess by falsely broadcasting that he had been incarcerated for a criminal matter.
“Unfortunately, the author is sheltered from Moroccan justice. I challenge him to return to the country to face justice,” says Mr. Abousoufiane.
“There is no judgment against me”
According to several interviews carried out in recent months with victims as well as a judgment from a Moroccan court, the person responsible for Lfercha is Abdelmejid Tounarti, a Canadian-Moroccan who lives in the Quebec region.
The judgment of the Court of First Instance of the Kingdom of Morocco, dated August 10, explains how two of his accomplices in Morocco allegedly “contributed and participated in obtaining sums of money by threatening to disclose shameful facts” on Lfercha, in particular about a Moroccan bank director involved in politics.
This bank director would have agreed, in May 2022, to pay 100,000 dirhams (approximately $13,500 CAN) to Abdelmejid Tounarti so that he would not disseminate information concerning bank loans that she would have granted without security to bazaarists, according to his testimony summarized in the document in Arabic, translated by The Press using the Google Translate tool. These two possible accomplices were respectively sentenced to two months and three months in prison for having transmitted erroneous information to Lfercha.
Abdelmejid Tounarti, contacted by telephone, denies these allegations, claiming to be himself the target of death threats, which he reported to the Quebec police.
I am paid by IVAC (Compensation for Victims of Crime) because I lost my job because of this.
“There is no judgment, neither Canadian nor Moroccan, against me,” insists Mr. Tounarti.
The 46-year-old computer scientist, in the process of bankruptcy for the second time since 2018, owes $74,000 to various creditors in Canada, according to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Files Registry of Canada. He was also ordered by the Administrative Housing Tribunal to pay $6,000 to the owners of the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré home that he suddenly deserted in March 2023.
His delicate financial situation did not prevent him from purchasing a Mercedes-Benz on installment from a used car store in June 2023, indicates the Register of Personal and Real Movable Rights of Quebec (RDPRM). Recent photos and videos he posted on Lfercha show him driving his luxury car in the streets of Lévis.
One Canadian arrested, another indicted
In December, several Moroccan online media reported the arrest by Moroccan justice of a Canadian-Moroccan from the Montreal region, Redouane Benallal, for extortion and defamation in connection with threats to publish private photos on Lfercha.
Mr. Tounarti, who admits to being a friend of Mr. Benallal, maintains that the latter “fell” because he “exploited the relationship he had with me to exploit people”. “There are quite a few who have fallen into blackmail and who claim to have done business with Lfercha,” defends Mr. Tounarti.
Neither the Moroccan embassy in Canada nor the Moroccan National Brigade of the Judicial Police, which is leading the investigation, wanted to answer our questions, citing the principle of judicial investigation secrecy which applies in the country. .
As part of the Moroccan investigation, the authorities also indicted a Gatineau resident, Abdelouahed Kabbouch, whose passport they seized for more than two months, before completely exonerating him, Moroccan court documents reveal.
A statement from Mr. Kabbouch’s Caisses Desjardins account, included in the file at the Court of First Instance of the Kingdom of Morocco, indicates that he served as an intermediary without his knowledge, within the framework of an informal exchange mechanism of currency, to transfer to Abdelmejid Tounarti $1,500 CAN out of the $13,500 that the latter allegedly extorted from the bank manager.
It was a traumatic experience. I didn’t see my family for two and a half months.
Abdelouahed Kabbouch, resident of Gatineau
“The Moroccan intelligence services are ready to slaughter any sheep to catch this person,” comments Mr. Kabbouch, who managed to demonstrate that he had nothing to do with the scheme.
Mohammed E., a Canadian-Moroccan who lives in the Trois-Rivières region and who asked us to withhold his last name to prevent his family from being targeted by a defamation campaign in Morocco, says he tried everything to force Abdelmejid Tounarti to cease his publications. He became involved in the case after one of his friends was accused in Lfercha of owning a “prostitution club” and sexual exploitation.
The Trois-Rivières hired a private investigator to find Abdelmejid Tounarti and send him a formal notice ordering him to stop. Tounarti published photos of the formal notice on Lfercha to taunt him.
Mohammed also filed a complaint with the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Quebec police service. After an investigation by the SQ, the file was sent to the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP), but the latter closed it at the beginning of January.
A police source indicates that it is difficult to file charges in this case since no person has been the victim of extortion on Quebec territory.
“The crook thinks he is untouchable,” laments Mohammed E. “I don’t understand how the authorities, in an advanced society like Canada, can tolerate such a thing. There should be collaboration between the Moroccan and Canadian police authorities,” believes the Trois-Rivières resident.
Facebook sued for reputational damage
El Amine Serhani, a Montrealer responsible for a community newspaper who has been portrayed as a criminal turned spy for the Moroccan secret services in Lfercha, filed a civil suit in Superior Court in 2023 against Abdelmejid Tounarti and Meta Platforms Inc., the company that owns Facebook.
The lawsuit deplores that “no action was taken by the administrators” of Facebook to stop the defamation against it on Lfercha.
Facebook is however well aware of the existence of Lfercha. On April 28, 2023, when The Press first contacted Meta Platforms to report extortion allegations, the social network quickly removed the page for “violating (the) Facebook Community Standards.”
A new Lfercha page was immediately created and now has more than 431,000 subscribers, in addition to two fallback pages, in case the main one is closed again, which have a total of 110,000 users.
“It is not normal that Meta Platforms allows individuals like that to transform Facebook into an open court,” denounces Mr. Serhani, who is demanding $180,000 from the social network and $180,000 from Mr. Tounarti.
Mr. Serhani recently asked the Court to issue a default judgment against Abdelmejid Tounarti in this case, since the latter never appeared at the trial.