x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Tunisia asks UAE to freeze Ben Ali's assets

Tunisian officials are asking the UAE and Qatar to freeze the ousted president's assets.

Tunisian officials have asked the governments of the UAE and Qatar to freeze the assets of the deposed president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and his family, the official TAP state news agency reports.

A source at the justice ministry told the Tunisian news service that officials submitted requests on May 3 and May 12 to freeze accounts connected to Mr Ben Ali, but gave no further details.

Officials at the UAE Central Bank did not respond to requests for comment yesterday. The Dubai Financial Services Authority, which in January alerted companies in the financial free zone to monitor any outflow of assets from Tunisia, declined to comment. Ministries and government offices in Tunisia were closed yesterday and a spokesman for the prime minister's office would not comment.

A group of French and Tunisian lawyers and anti-corruption groups have been calling for the UAE to find and freeze the former president's assets before they can be removed.

An international clampdown on the finances of other deposed leaders in the region has intensified since the fall of Mr Ben Ali's regime in January.

Several members of his family and some associates have been detained, while the president was able to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, the UAE Government has also been asked by the Egyptian government to freeze any bank accounts of its former president, Hosni Mubarak, and his entourage in compliance with a United Nations resolution.

UAE officials have said they will freeze the accounts once the order comes through to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

econroy@thenational.ae