Paris prosecutor says probing ousted Tunisia leader's assets

24th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

French state prosecutors said Monday they had opened an investigation into the Paris real estate assets of ousted Tunisia leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The inquiry was opened after three activist groups filed a civil suit against the leader who is accused of plundering the north African country's resources during his 23-year rule.

They accuse Ben Ali, who fled who fled on January 14 after his people revolted, of corruption, misusing public funds, and money-laundering.

Rights groups Sherpa, anti-corruption group Transparency International France and the Arab Commission for Human Rights estimated the wealth amassed by Ben Ali and his entourage at five billion dollars (3.6 billion euros).

The French government said earlier this month that it would block suspicious movements of Tunisian assets in France, where Ben Ali and his family are said to own expensive villas and apartments.

On Monday, the French daily Liberation published a front-page photo of a townhouse in the posh 16th arrondissement of Paris that it said belonged to one of the ex-president's daughters.

It published other photos of prime real estate assets in Paris it said belonged to the entourage of Ben Ali, who has sought refuge in Saudi Arabia.

Last week Tunisian authorities arrested 33 members of Ben Ali's family who were under investigation for plundering the nation's resources.

The European Union has agreed in principle to freeze the assets of the ousted president and his family, a source in Brussels told AFP last week, though the final details were still to be worked out.

© 2011 AFP

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