Tunisia missing 1.5 tonnes of gold after unrest: body

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Tunisia's state coffers are missing 1.5 tonnes of gold, according to an industry group, amid reports that the ousted president and his wife had collected the ingots before fleeing the country.

Tunisia had 6.8 tonnes of gold in December, a level unchanged for at least a decade, according to a December online report issued by the World Gold Council, which is also in line with estimates issued by the International Monetary Fund in October.

The WGC regularly publishes global statistics on gold and is considered an authority on the sector.

Tunisia's central bank this week said it held about 5.3 tonnes, but dismissed reports that the family of ex-leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had withdrawn the gold saying the bank vaults were "under draconian security measures."

The gold would be worth 45 million euros (about 60 million dollars).

According to French intelligence cited by French daily Le Monde, Ben Ali's wife Leila Trabelsi had gone to the bank to withdraw the gold. The governor initially resisted, but backed down under pressure from Ben Ali himself

French TV TF1 also reported that the gold was withdrawn in late December.

Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia last week amid an unprecedented wave of street protests against rising unemployment as well as his 23 years of iron-fisted rule and allegations of corruption against his family.

© 2011 AFP

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