✧❶ تونس تناضل لاسترداد 11 مليار دولار خبأها "بن علي" ❶✧
نشرت صحيفة "جارديان" البريطانية تقريرًا يكشف أن عائلة الرئيس التونسي السابق زين العابدين بن علي تتمتع بأرصدة في مصارف في أنحاء العالم، وأن تكلفة استرداد هذه الأموال تمثل معضلة للعهد الجديد في تونس.
وقال تقرير الصحيفة البريطانية: "كانت تلك هي اللحظة التي هزت نخبة شمال أفريقيا من اساسها وحددت وقع الثورات العربية المقبلة وارغمت الحكام الدكتاتوريين في انحاء العالم على التوقف والتفكير، وبينما طالبت الجماهير المحتشدة في شوارع تونس بالتغيير تخلى زين العابدين بن علي بهدوء عن المنصب الذي شغله لاكثر من 23 سنة وطار من البلاد إلى المملكة العربية السعودية".
واشار التقرير إلى أن الجماهير التونسية طالبت باسترداد جميع الأموال التي جمعها الرئيس وبطانته، خصوصًا الطرابلسيين - اي اقارب زوجته الثانية ليلى طرابلسي - في الداخل والخارج. وهتفت الجماهير: "الطرابلسيون أكلوا الاقتصاد كله".
وأضافت الصحيفة: "بعد مرور سنة على ذلك اليوم الدرامي، تكافح السلطات الجديدة في تونس لاستعادة الأرصدة الضخمة التي يعتقد أنها أودعت سرًا في حسابات مصرفية منتشرة من الأرجنتين وجزر كيمان وفيرجين الخاضعة لسيطرة بريطانيا إلى قطر والإمارات العربية المتحدة".
من جهتها دعت الرابطة التونسية للشفافية المالية، وهي منظمة صغيرة غير حكومية قدرت ان بن علي سرق ما يصل إلى 17 مليار دولار (11 مليار جنيه استرليني)، حكومات المملكة المتحدة والخليج الى بذل جهود انشط لاكتشاف الثروة المسروقة.
وقد أدى طلب مبدئي إلى المصارف السويسرية إلى اكتشاف 60 مليون فرنك سويسري (41 مليون جنيه استرليني) مودعة باسم بن علي.
وأكدت الرابطة التونسية للشفافية المالية أن هذا المبلغ قطرة في بحر، فيما حذّر المصرف المركزي التونسي من أن إعادة ثروة بن علي إلى البلاد ستستغرق سنوات.
Tunisia struggles to trace up to £11bn hidden abroad by Ben Ali regime
It was the moment that shook the north African elite to the core, set the tone for Arab revolutions to come and gave dictators the world over pause for thought. As crowds clamoured in the streets of Tunis for change, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali quietly abandoned the office he had held for more than 23 years and flew out of the country for Saudi Arabia.
As news of his departure spread, the crowd demanded restitution: of all the riches that he and his hangers-on, especially the Trabelsis – relatives of his second wife, Leila Trabelsi – had accumulated both at home and abroad. "The Trabelsis have eaten the whole economy!" they chanted. Natural justice demanded the return of the funds.
But one year on from that dramatic day, Tunisia's new authorities are struggling to claw back the formidable assets believed to have been secreted away in bank accounts from Argentina and the British-controlled Cayman Islands and Virgin Islands, to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
The Tunisian Association for Financial Transparency (ATTF), a small NGO which has estimated the Ben Ali swag at as much as $17bn (£11bn), is calling on the UK and Gulf governments to be more proactive in tracing stolen wealth. An initial request to Swiss banks turned up 60m Swiss francs (£41m) held in Ben Ali's name. The ATTF says that is a drop in the ocean. The Tunisian central bank warns that repatriating the Ben Ali wealth will take years.
"Public opinion is extremely strong against those banks and those countries that have not been fully co-operating with the investigation," said Sami Remadi, a Swiss-trained clinical pathologist who heads the ATTF.
"It's not just a question of money, it's a question of dignity. I have told the British authorities [Tunisians] won't be treated as second-class citizens. It is one of the big injustices of the world that in countries like Tunisia the population suffers from a lack of services, a lack of rights, and lack of democracy, but on top of that they have national wealth stolen from them.
"For 23 years our freedom was taken from us, and it was only after the revolution that we realised the scale of other things that had been taken from us, the plundering of resources."
In the weeks after the revolution the Tunisian authorities listed 48 individuals, from Ben Ali and Leila Trabelsi down, believed to have illegally acquired assets. EU countries and Switzerland have frozen all assets held in these names, while Tunis has also issued international arrest warrants as the legal investigations proceed.
But Remadi believes that Ben Ali and his associates were "very well-advised" by experts, often Europe-based, on how to camouflage cash or property ownership to keep them out of the reach of possible future investigators.
Having assets repatriated is no simple task, and members of the former first family may put up fierce legal resistance. To give Tunisia's claims to recover any stolen funds the best chance of success, the country's government would have to hire an experience international investigative team, said Johann Benoehr, a financial investigator formerly employed by Kroll business intelligence consultancy.
The expense could be prohibitive for a country facing so many other calls on its resources. And that is even before the cost of hiring international lawyers for the inevitable hearings abroad. "If you don't have international expertise, there is little chance you will succeed," said Benoehr.
The Swiss authorities and the African Development Bank have offered some technical help for free, but Tunisia's new Islamist-led government, which took office in April under former political prisoner Hamadi Jebali as prime minister, faces the conundrum of how much it can justify spending on teams of international experts, each individual billing at up to $300 an hour, for an investigation that could take many months, to recover funds the total amount of which is at present still only guesswork.
Contrary to impressions of high living and lavish excess, the Ben Ali-Trabelsi clan actually ruled more like a ruthless mafia, elbowing its way into the commanding heights of the economy.
Revelations in the Tunisian press and courtrooms over the past 12 months, and in a 345-page report by a commission set up to investigate corruption, have shown how the "clans" around the ruling family, and especially some of Leila's brothers and nephews, reinvented themselves as business tycoons. Rather than commercial acumen, they used their proximity to an uxorious, ageing president with a younger wife, with their mafia-like style supplementing the state's existing apparatus of intimidation.
A video circulating last year on Facebook shows some prominent Trabelsis dancing at an unostentatious family wedding: it could have been any middle-class Tunisian family. But even if they did not always flash their wealth, Trabelsis close to the presidency were increasingly boldly extending their grip across the economy, from banking, media and telecoms to real-estate development, import-export, retail distribution, an airline and state-owned marble quarries. One is even facing charges, along with a former religious affairs minister, over alleged malpractices in the organisation of the annual Omra pilgrimage to Mecca.
The business community found it more and more difficult to stomach the scale of corruption. Information began to circulate on cafe terraces and via the web. A revolution was born.