Switzerland has returned around €3.5 million ($3.91 million) held by a close relative of former Tunisian president Ben Ali to the Tunisian authorities as part of the country's stolen assets recovery process.
The move came in response to a request for mutual legal assistance from Tunisia, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.external link
“The assets had been frozen in Switzerland in connection with a close relative of the former president of Tunisia, and are being transferred to the current Tunisian authorities with that person’s agreement,” the statement said.
The decision on what should be done with the assets now lies with the Tunisian authorities, and will depend on the proceedings currently underway in Tunisia.
The transfer follows a smaller restitution of CHF250,000 Swiss ($256,383.96) made to Tunisia in May 2016.
In early 2011, the Swiss government froze the assets held in Switzerland by the deposed President Ben Ali and his entourage in response to political events in North Africa – the Arab Spring. The aim was to prevent the possible flight of capital that was suspected of having been illicitly acquired, and to thereby facilitate judicial cooperation with Tunisia.
Since then, criminal investigations have been opened in both countries.
“This new restitution is a tangible manifestation of the good cooperation that exists between Switzerland and Tunisia,” said the Swiss foreign ministry. “It is a success for mutual legal assistance and marks an important step in the long and complex process of recovering the illicit assets of politically exposed persons, a process to which Switzerland has been committed for years.”