Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

Tunisia: Presidential candidate Nabil Karoui arrested over tax evasion

The Heart of Tunisia Party has said the media mogul's arrest was politically motivated

The owner of the Tunisian private channel Nesma TV, Nabil Karoui, a leading presidential candidate in Tunisia, Nabil Karoui, co-owner of a private TV station, has been arrested and jailed in a case involving alleged tax evasion and money laundering AP Photo 
The owner of the Tunisian private channel Nesma TV, Nabil Karoui, a leading presidential candidate in Tunisia, Nabil Karoui, co-owner of a private TV station, has been arrested and jailed in a case involving alleged tax evasion and money laundering AP Photo 

Tunisian presidential candidate Nabil Karoui was arrested by police on Friday night on charges related to tax evasion.

La Presse de Tunisie reported Mr Karoui was arrested at a toll station on the Medjez El Bab highway with his brother Ghazi Karoui on suspicion of financial crimes.

The two men have been banned from leaving Tunisia and have had their assets frozen. The pair have reportedly been taken to Al Mornguiya prison.

The Tunisian presidential candidate’s Heart of Tunisia Party has said his arrest was politically motivated and an attempt to exclude him from upcoming September elections.

The media mogul’s own Nesma television station broadcast video footage showing the security services detaining Mr Karoui in his car. In July this year authorities barred the presidential hopeful from leaving the country while he was investigated for money laundering.

Osama Khelifi, one of Mr Karoui’s political advisers, told Reuters he had been “kidnapped” to ease sitting prime minister Chahed Youssef’s path to the presidency.

Samira Chaouachi, spokeswoman of Karoui's Heart of Tunisia Party, said it was "a political arrest aimed at keeping Karoui out of the presidential race".

However, authorities have said Mr Karoui’s arrest should have no bearing on his candidacy as he has not been found guilty and investigations are ongoing.

Mr Karoui and Mr Chahed are among 26 presidential candidates vying to lead Tunisia. The elections, which will be held on September 15, were triggered by the death of President Beji Caid Essebsi. The 92-year-old was Tunisia’s first democratically elected head of state following the country’s 2011 revolution which sparked uprisings across the region.

Former president Moncef Marzouki and Abd El Fatteh Mourou, vice president of the Ennahda party, are also running in the elections.

Earlier this year police raided the offices of Nesma TV over accusations the broadcaster had breached media laws. Mr Karoui’s company claimed the raid was also politically motivated because of Nesma’s critical line against the government.

Updated: August 24, 2019 01:15 AM

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