Tunisia recovers luxury yacht owned by Ben Ali family

AFP, Saturday 25 May 2013

A luxury boat worth $10.3 million that belonged to the family of Tunisian toppled dictator Ben Ali has been put up for sale

Ben Ali
A sign that reads ''Wanted for Dictatorship'' is stuck on the shirt of a protester inside a courtroom on the opening day of the trial in absentia of Tunisia's ousted president Ben Ali and his wife in Tunisia June 2011. (Photo: Reuters)

Tunisia put on display Friday a luxury yacht formerly owned by the brother-in-law of deposed dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and that Spain returned to Tunisia last month, an AFP photographer reported.

Tunisian Central Bank Governor Chedly Ayari, speaking at the event, said Switzerland would soon hand back to Tunisia 60 million Swiss francs ($62 million) linked to Ben Ali that were frozen during the uprising that ousted him.

The 32-metre (105-foot) "Five Fishes" yacht, worth an estimated eight million Euros ($10.3 million), was returned to Tunisia on 28 April, said a naval official in charge of the vessel, currently anchored in the Tunis suburb La Goulette.

The boat, which belonged to Belhassen Trabelsi, has been put up for sale. So far, only one offer, for seven million Euros, has been made, which authorities have rejected.

The millionaire businessman and brother of Ben Ali's wife, Leila Trabelsi, fled Tunisia on a separate ship in the hours before the former regime fell, on 14 January 2011, and is in Canada seeking political asylum.

In April, Italy returned a luxury yacht that belonged to Ben Ali's nephew Kais Ben Ali, arrested last year on corruption charges. It had sailed to the island of Lampedusa in the chaotic days after the revolution.

A bill is currently under study that would help cash-strapped Tunisia get its hands on assets belonging to the Ben Ali clan and that were transferred abroad.

"Our next destinations are Lebanon and Switzerland. There are 60 million Swiss francs frozen in Switzerland that will soon be returned," Ayari said.

He did not elaborate on the funds that Tunisia was seeking in Lebanon, which earlier this year returned $28.8 million stashed there by the Ben Ali family.

President Moncef Marzouki has said Ben Ali and those close to him embezzled $15-20 billion during his 23-year rule.

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