May 2, 2011
Tunisian authorities created a commission to investigate corruption, and to find and recover goods misappropriated by the ex-dictator Ben Ali and his clan. The total sum is estimated to be between five and ten billion dollars, an amount comparable to the foreign debt of Tunisia. The task won’t be easy, since Ben Ali’s fortune was hidden in numerous accounts, thanks to front names and dummy companies in tax havens like Dubai, Qatar, Lebanon, Malta and the Bahamas.
But Tunisians have gotten a glimpse of the extent of Ben Ali’s riches. TV showed the search carried out in his private residence in a Tunis suburb. The ex-president was the owner, but leased it at a high price to the Tunisian state, which in turn gave it to him free as his official residence. Quite a profit made off of that deal! In this little palace was a pile worthy of Ali Baba’s cave: from jewels, luxury watches, gold pieces, to wads of currencies totaling a value of 37 million dollars.
While this one treasury has been recovered, it will be another matter to identify all his clan’s assets held abroad, with a value one hundred or two hundred times as much.
As for recovering the still more numerous billions extorted from the Tunisian workers by industrial groups and banks of the great powers, in particular French companies, no one has even mentioned that idea. But it was these capitalists who were the sponsors and beneficiaries of the Ben Ali dictatorship for twenty-three years.