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Tunisia: Two People Close to Former Dictator Ben Ali Jailed

A leading Tunisian businessman and a former minister close to former dictator Ben Ali have been jailed in two separate investigations into suspected financial corruption, local media reported on Wednesday.

Marouane Mabrouk, 51, former son-in-law of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (who died in 2019) and head of one of Tunisia’s largest groups (Géant, Monoprix, Orange, Banque BIAT), has been given a five-day renewable detention order.

He is suspected of corruption in the management of a company confiscated by the State, as part of an investigation opened more than 10 years ago into public funds looted under Ben Ali, said the spokesman for the Court of First Instance, Mohamed Zitouna, quoted by government media.

The investigators suspect a “crime of taking control of a company to which the State contributes capital”, added Mr Zitouna, specifying that the company was the Saïda food group (cakes, chocolates).

Abderrahim Zouari, 79, former Minister of Transport and Tourism under Ben Ali, is also subject to a five-day renewable detention order for having taken advantage of his position to obtain benefits.

His imprisonment follows “a complaint lodged by a non-governmental organisation on suspicion of corruption in a public contract”, said Mr Zitouna.

Marouane Mabrouk is the former husband of Cyrine Ben Ali, one of the daughters of the former dictator (1987-2011) from a first marriage.

Mr Mabrouk co-runs the Mabrouk family business, which also controls the Orange Tunisia operator, launched a year before the democratic revolution that toppled Ben Ali in 2011 and marked the start of the Arab Spring.

Mr Mabrouk’s assets were officially seized after the revolution and transferred to the Karama Holding fund, which oversees all the ill-gotten gains of the Ben Ali clan.

In March 2022, President Kais Saied, anxious to replenish the coffers of Tunisia, which was 80% in debt, set up a “criminal reconciliation” commission, providing for the dropping of legal proceedings in exchange for the payment of penalties or the completion of major projects.

In March 2023, Mr Saied dismissed the head of this commission, making him pay for his failure to collect the hoped-for sums, estimated at 4 billion euros by an official report.

Source : Africanews