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First batch of Ben Ali funds returned to Tunisia

Millions of francs once belonging to the Ben Ali clan remain frozen in Switzerland Keystone

Switzerland has returned to Tunisia the first tranche of the CHF60 million ($60.5 million) in blocked assets that were seized from former dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his family. The Swiss attorney general has confirmed that CHF250,000 has been repatriated.

The funds are believed to have once belonged to a nephew of Ben Ali, according to the AFP press agency.

Following the overthrow of Ben Ali in the Jasmine Revolution of 2011, the Swiss authorities froze CHF60 million held in Swiss accounts. The assets were suspected of being “laundered” or gained via “participation in a criminal organisation”.

Funds under the name of some 40 people or organisations were frozen just days after Ben Ali’s downfall.

In April 2014, the attorney general ordered the return of some CHF40 million from accounts belonging to businessman Belhassen Trabelsi, brother of the dictator’s wife Leïla. But that order was overturned eight months later by the Federal Criminal Court, ruling that Trabelsi had not had sufficient opportunity to mount a challenge.

The decision was met with frustration from the authorities in Tunisia.

According to the World Bank, Ben Ali controlled more than 21% of the profits generated by Tunisia’s private sector at the end of 2010.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR