Wife of ousted Tunisian president "robbed" Central Bank
Leila Trabelsi, the wife of former President Ben Ali had taken 1.5 tons of gold from the Central Bank of Tunisia before leaving the country to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, reports a French newspaper. This quantity of gold bars represents a value of approximately 45 million Euros. According to the French newspaper, the Governor of the Central Bank had initially refused to give her the gold but then she called her husband the ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who "convinced" him to allow them to take the bars.
Leila Trabelsi is the second wife of the ousted president. The poor hairdresser married Ben Ali in 1992 and became the new "First Lady". It brought with her a huge family - 10 brothers and sisters, not to mention dozens of nephews. Her eldest brother, Belhassen, is the head of the clan and until the recent events was the leading businessman in Tunisia.
The rise of the Trabelsis began in the mid 90s when Leila sought to nominate her relatives to key positions. From then, members of the cltook control over banks, hotels and other assests in various sector such as real estate, transportation, retails and telecom. Their grip on the Tunisian business sector was so strong that in U.S. diplomatic cables, leaked by Wikileaks, the Trabelsi family was described as a "quasi-mafia".
And now the Tunisian privatization plan, which was initiated by the IMF, is described as a "huge state robbery," by the ruling family. "At the time of privatization, they purchased the companies at a nominal price and then sold it to industrialists and businessmen," said author Beatrice Hibou. According to the U.S. diplomatic cables cited by Wikileaks, Marwan Mabrouk, the son of Ben Ali, has bought 17% stake in the former South Bank (now Bank Attijari) just before its privatization. The 17% share allowed it to gain a control position, since the privatization concerned covered 35% of the total shares of the bank. Mabrouk had sold his shares of banks with a huge profit.