Tunisia seizes 234 luxury cars from Ben Ali clan

Filed on August 9, 2011

TUNIS A Tunisian government expropriation commission has seized 234 luxury vehicles owned by allies and relatives of toppled president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, media reported Tuesday.

Most of the vehicles seized by the commission, which operates under Finance Minister Jaloul Ayed, were put into the care of the army until they could be sold or used, the newspapers said.

Among them was a German model tailor-fitted for Ben Ali’s wife Leila Trabelsi, a birthday present that cost an estimated 1.3 million dinars (about 700,000 euros or $1 million), the Tunis-Hebdo wrote.

A list of the seized cars showed that the couple’s youngest daughter, a student, owed at least 10 of them.

The Ben Ali and Trabelsi families and their allies were keen car collectors, and vied with each other to own the latest models.

Several among the younger generation had their names printed on the number plates instead of the obligatory licence numbers, and drove around with tinted windows — against the law for ordinary Tunisians.

The ex-president’s son-in-law Sakhr el Materi and Trabelsi’s brother Belhassen had their hands on large portions of the Tunisian economy, including the automobile sector.

Both fled Tunisia when the Ben Ali regime fell on January 14 following weeks of popular uprisings in Tunisia that spread across the Arab world. They are the subject of arrest warrants still to be executed.

Since his own escape to Saudi Arabia, Ben Ali has been twice convicted and sentenced in trials held in his absence for possession of arms, drugs and archaeological artefacts, and for misappropriating public funds.

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