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Basma Barakat

Ben Ali's homes set to go under the hammer

Tunisia will soon sell the properties of Ben Ali and his relatives [AFP]

Date of publication: 7 September, 2015

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The Tunisian ministry of state property and land affairs will soon make a decision regarding the sale of properties belonging to ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his relatives.

More than 500 houses that were once the property of ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his relatives will soon have their fates revealed.

The property empire was seized by the state after the revolution ousted the autocrat, and a decision over what to do with the real estate will be announced "soon", the head of real estate property at the Tunisian ministry of state property and land affairs, Jamal al-Ayari, told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

The decision comes as part of Tunisian authorities' efforts to end speculation over their willingness to take serious steps towards seizing Ben Ali's assets.

According to Ayari, several of properties have been vandalised and looted in the wake of the Tunisian revolution, hindering the state's efforts to sell them.

"Some of the properties are currently at the disposal of specialised real estate companies, while the rest is at the disposal of the ministry," he said.

The ministry seized $13 billion worth of properties, companies and bank accounts that belonged to Ben Ali, his family and entourage, after he fled to Saudi Arabia amid popular protests.

Ayari added that some properties were ready for sale, while others continue to be the subject of legal disputes - which must be resolved before the state can sell them.

Of 547 companies seized by the state, whether fully or partially, the bankrupt ones will be closed, while the successful ones will be supported, Ayari said.

Ayari also said that the economic reconciliation bill, proposed by Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi in March, should be brought forward, because the fate of those involved - Ben Ali's allegedly corrupt businessmen, ministers, and top aides - had to be decided urgently.

Since the 2011 revolution, there has been significant decline in investment here, as local entrpreneurs fear creating new ventures due to the lack of legal safeguards that would protect them - particularly after many had properties seized by the state and were put on blacklists of corruption and former regime supporters.

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