The affair sparked intense controversy in Morocco. The scandal, nicknamed “the Paris incident”, erupted after the publication of an alleged intimate photo of Leila Benali by the Australian press. In this photo, a man and a woman can clearly be seen kissing. According to the kingdom’s media, it would be Andrew Forres, second richest person in Australia and founder of the mining group Fortescue Metals, and the Moroccan Minister in charge of Energy Transition, Leila Benali.

This alleged connection poses a problem due to the announcement in April of a future collaboration between the Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP) and the Australian mining group Fortescue Metals. Member of the OCP board of directors and responsible for the development of green hydrogen in the kingdom, Leila Benali is summoned to explain herself by the Moroccan press.
Faced with these accusations, Leila Benali reacted in a press release from her ministry following the publication in “The Australian”. Thus, Benali’s ministry clarified that these allegations are completely false and unfounded. The minister denies being the woman in the photo and assures that she respects “good morals”.

The press release specifies “that as responsible minister within the government of the Kingdom of Morocco, she defends the supreme interests of the country and affirms, as a Moroccan woman and mother, her total commitment to respect for ethics and good morals.”

“Madame Leila Benali, in her capacity as Minister of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development, emphasizes that this attempt at defamation against her, through the publication mentioned, is not the first. She considers this as a form of revenge and targeting emanating from interest groups due to the inability to achieve certain achievements and objectives,” specifies the same source.

Ghizlane Mamouni, president and founder of the Kif Mama kif baba Association for equality between women and men, says she is “distressed to see a woman forced to justify herself about her private life”. According to her, this case shows that in Morocco, even women from privileged backgrounds are subject to social pressure when it comes to accusations of sexual relations outside of marriage.

Defined by article 490 of the Penal Code as an offense of immorality, sex outside of marriage is punishable by one year of imprisonment. Ghizlane Mamouni adds that the case had specific treatment, because the main person concerned is a prominent politician and that “suspicions of conflicts of interest are the pretext for infringing on her private life”.

The feminist activist recalls that before her, politicians were the subject of serious suspicions of conflicts of interest but their cases did not have comparable media coverage.

Although the photo does not clearly show the minister, the newspaper claimed to have confirmed the “validity of the information” contained in the published article, based on the reaction of the Fortescue group, a leader in the fields of green energy, of Minerals and Technology, which neither confirmed nor denied the accuracy of the information.

Billy Omeonga

Billy Omeonga graduated in Journalism and Creative Writing. I have a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. I am currently pursuing an MBA at the University of the People in the United States of America. I love activities that involve ideas and critical thinking. I am passionate about nature and protecting the environment. I believe in protecting our planet and its natural resources. I hate dishonest and pessimistic people. Honesty is an integral part of my view of the world and it is a value in which I strongly believe. I speak French and English fluently. In my free time, I like to read and play the piano. Also, I disapprove of the unreliability. I am a reliable person, so I expect a certain level of reliability from those I am reliable to.

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