Tunisia gets $29m from ex-regime assets


Ali Bin Fetais al-Marri, a UN-appointed stolen asset recovery specialist, on Thursday handed President Moncef Marzouki a $28.8m cheque secured from a Lebanese bank account belonging to Leyla Trabelsi, the wife of the longtime deposed autocrat Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Still, the amount recovered is considered to be a tiny proportion of the billions Tunisians suspect Mr Ben Ali, his relatives and his inner circle stashed away in bank accounts under fake names across the world – including in the UK, US, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Austria, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Lebanon and Morocco, according to legal experts.

But Mr Marri said the symbolism of the cheque for now was more significant than the actual cash. “A revolution is not easy, but what follows a revolution is not easier,” he told reporters, according to the English-language news website Tunisia Live.

The country is now facing serious economic troubles and is finalising a $1.78bn contingency loan with the International Monetary Fund as its finances continue to deteriorate.

The country has struggled to recover the ill-gotten riches of the former regime. The EU only last November took steps to allow frozen assets belonging to former regimes in Tunisia and Egypt to be handed back to current governments after proper judicial procedures. Since 2011, cash and assets of 48 Tunisians have been frozen.

At a glitzy, high-profile auction last December, Tunisia’s ministry of finance began selling off Mr Ben Ali’s sometimes tacky, high-priced possessions, including cars, paintings, rugs, jewellery and yachts, though there is no word yet on how much the sale has raised.

Yet they need to do more. 29 million is only change. Tunisians need to reduce corruption and to make opportunities accessible to everybody.


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