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Tunisia President’s Wife Left with 1.5 Tons of Gold

January 18, 2011

The French government suspects that former Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and his family may have fled the country with 1.5 tons of gold, French daily Le Monde reported Monday.

According to the French secret service, Leila Trabelsi, the wife of the ex-president, went to the Central Bank of Tunisia to fetch the gold bars, the paper reported.

The governor of the bank is reported to have refused to give them to her, so Trabelsi rang her husband who first also refused to help, before giving in, according to Le Monde.

“It seems that the wife of Ben Ali left with some gold, 1.5 tons or 45 million euros worth (67 million dollars),” a French politician told the paper.

But a central bank official denied receiving verbal or written orders for gold withdrawals, adding that the country’s gold reserves “have not moved,” Le Monde said.

An official from the Elysée told Le Monde that “this information comes directly from Tunisia, in particular the Central Bank. It seems to be pretty much confirmed.”

Trabelsi took a flight to Dubai, before heading to Jeddah. It is still unclear how Ben Ali left Tunisia.Gold Bars

According to Italian sources, reports suggest the former president’s airplane was in Maltese airspace without the authority to land.

There is also speculation that Ben Ali may have left Tunisia by helicopter to Malta and then taken his plane from there.

The French government believes the Libyan secret service may have helped Ben Ali flee in order to avoid violence, Le Monde reported.

 

Dubbed ‘the Imelda Marcos of the Arab world’ because of her lavish lifestyle and love of designer clothes, Leila Trabelsi is said to have demanded the gold last week as President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali’s regime collapsed.

The chief of Tunisia’s central bank initially refused but Ben Ali, 74, personally intervened, and she flew out with the bullion as she joined him in exile in Saudi Arabia.

The source of the claim, leading Tunisian economist Moncef Cheikhrouhou, said militia men had tried to take more gold.  The clan of the former first lady is widely despised as the ultimate symbol of corruption and excess.

A former hairdresser, Mrs Ben Ali, 53, is known for her love of fast cars – the family had more than 50 – luxury homes and frequent shopping trips to Dubai, during which she is said to have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds.

While many Tunisians faced unemployment, poor living conditions and oppression from Ben Ali’s brutal regime, his family – known as ‘The Mafia’ in the North African country’s capital Tunis – is said to have amassed a £3.5billion fortune. Much of it is kept in France, where some members of the family were still holed up last night.

  1. January 24, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    wow. I never thought about this in that way

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