Tunisia lines up for $180 million loans; Ben Ali’s assets estimated $13bn

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Tunisian dinar. Photo – Tunisia-live.net

The Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) and the Central Bank of Tunisia on late Tuesday announced they have signed three loan agreements under which the Arab financial institution would grant Tunisia three loans to the tune of $180 million. The announcement came amid reports that former Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s wealth is estimated to be around $13 billion.

The aid agreements were signed in Tunis by Tunisian Central Bank Governor Chedli Ayari and Director General and Board Chairman of the Arab Monetary Fund Jassem Manai.

Tunisian officials insisted the loans will serve to support the balance of payment, official external reserves and supporting the financial and banking sector reform programme.

These loans will be repaid in three years and more with a grace period ranging between 1 and a half year and 2years, and an interest rate not exceeding 1%.

Aid or Recovery?

According to a report carried out by the local TAP news agency, Tunisia’s ousted president possesses more than $13 billion in assets, a government commission formed to look into his wealth has found.

Najob Hnane, head of the confiscation committee, said it had identified 398 holding companies, as well as several other assets, belonging to ex-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his relatives. The commission chief added that many other assets are yet to be tracked down.

Some of the confiscated assets will be displayed in a November exhibition in the northern resort town of Gammarth, according to a minister for state property, Selim Ben Hmidane.

“The revelations about these assets show the involvment of a mafia with branches abroad,” said Ben Hmidane.

Among the items confiscated from the Ben Ali family and their associates were drugs, explosives and foreign passports.

Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia in mid-January 2011 following a month of popular protests against his autocratic rule.

In July, a Tunisian military court handed him a life sentence in absentia for his role in killing protesters during the uprising.

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