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Tunisia: freeze on funds linked to ex-president extended by Canada 

March 24, 2021 at 3:15 pm

Former Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis on July 1998 [FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images]

Tunisia’s Acting Justice Minister, Hasna Ben Slimane, announced on Monday that Canada has extended the freeze on funds linked to former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The decision is the first of its kind and will be in force for five years as from yesterday.

“The Ministry of Justice has provided the Attorney General in charge of state disputes with the file supporting the request for extending the freezing decisions, in order to refer it to the competent foreign authorities and complete all required procedures,” Ben Slimane told MPs in Tunis. “The ministry will continue its efforts to benefit from the freeze period and recover the funds.”

She did not say how much money is involved. However, Tunisian organisations estimate the funds smuggled abroad by Ben Ali and his family at $23 billion. The late president was overthrown in the 2011 popular revolution and sought refuge in Saudi Arabia, where he died on 19 September, 2019.

READ: Ben Ali assets in Switzerland transferred to Tunisia central bank

“Within the framework of international judicial cooperation, funds and real estate in some countries were identified, as well as information that led to delivering documentation and presenting evidence that enabled the disclosure of many assets,” added Ben Slimane. “Thanks to the letters rogatory [an official request from a local court to a foreign court for some type of judicial assistance] directed to the concerned countries, Tunisia was able to recover a portion of the funds, the latest of which was an amount of 3.5 million Tunisian dinars [$1.27 million] that was announced recently.”

On 11 March, the Tunisian presidency announced that Switzerland had transferred that sum to the Central Bank of Tunisia.