World Bank says Ben Ali embezzled billions
Tunisia’s former dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, has embezzled billions of dollars during his 24 years of reign, a report from the World Bank says.
The report noted that companies controlled by the dictator and his family garnered about 25 percent of the country's private sector profits.
It also showed how Ben Ali established and manipulated regulations for companies and investment to benefit his own family firms.
The regulations were "a smokescreen for extraction of rents," according to Bob Rijkers, lead author of the study.
The report identified 220 companies controlled by the former dictator and his family, including companies in telecommunications, the cement industry, automobiles, sugar, airlines, real estate, the food industry, and hotels and restaurants.
Financial activities of the firms, all controlled by Ben Ali, his wife Leila Trabelsi, and their children and siblings, were exposed in documents confiscated by the Tunisian government in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution.
The World Economic Forum regularly ranked the country as Africa's most competitive economy, and Tunisia was heralded by the International Monetary Fund as a model for others.
However the report said, “Tunisia's openness was largely a mirage, with large sectors of the economy closed, and many of these captured by interests close to the regime."
Ben Ali fled Tunisia in the aftermath of the country’s revolution and currently lives in exile in Saudi Arabia with his wife.
The former leader has already received two life sentences in prison for his regime’s crackdown on protesters prior to his ouster.
According to the United Nations figures, more than 300 people were killed and many others wounded in the former government’s crackdown on protests over corruption, unemployment, and high food prices.