Bank denies Ben Ali clan fled with gold

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Tunisia's central bank Monday denied a report that relatives of the ousted Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country with 1.5 tonnes in gold.

The gold would fetch $65 million dollars (49 million euros) on the open market at Monday's prices.

France's Le Monde newspaper reported earlier Monday that President Nicolas Sarkozy's office has been briefed by French intelligence that Leila Trabelsi, Ben Ali's second wife, withdrew gold ingots from the Tunisian central bank last week.

The governor initially resisted her request, but backed down under pressure from Ben Ali himself, the report said.

An official at the bank in Tunis told AFP on Monday: "The gold reserves of the central bank of Tunisia have not been touched in recent days.

"Neither have the cash reserves. The country has very strict regulations," said the official, who did not want to be identified.

Ben Ali and Leila have now fled Tunisia, under pressure from an unprecedented wave of street protests and amid anger that their family is accused of looting the country's resources.

© 2011 AFP

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