Mohammed is neither a gifted orator nor a political strategist, two areas in which his father excelled. Instead, he’s focused on expanding the crown’s investments and his own personal wealth. Though precise figures are hard to come by, his holding companies are known to have large stakes in nearly every sector of the Moroccan economy from the food and banking industries to real estate, mining, and manufacturing, according to analysts who study Morocco’s financial structures. As the portfolios have expanded, so have the allegations of corruption.
An American diplomat in Casablanca wrote in a cable to the State Department in 2009 about the “appalling greed” of those close to Mohammed. Made public by WikiLeaks last year, the cable said the royal family used state institutions to “coerce and solicit” bribes. When I visited Tazi at the office of his mattress company in Casablanca, he told me he regularly pays bribes just to get his merchandise delivered to customers around the county. “It’s a multimillion-dollar business taking place every day, and the profits trickle up to the top of the ladder.”
Among Moroccan businessmen, the king’s direct involvement in the economy is no secret. (One of his holding companies is called Siger—an inversion of the Latin word regis, meaning “of the king.”) Many prefer to avoid investing in areas where the royal palace already has holdings, fearing the king’s power and influence would put them at a disadvantage. As a result, companies owned by the crown are often monopolies or near monopolies, says Aboubakr Jamai, who published the weekly Le Journal Hebdomadaireuntil it folded last year. “So even if you set aside the political aspect, the moral aspect, the ethical aspect, it’s not optimal economically,” he says.