Tunisia: Three Prominent Arrests as Corruption Probes Target the Wealthy

by | Nov 9, 2023 | Legal, Political, Tunisia


On 7 November 2023, two individuals with connections to former Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali were arrested as pressure continues on those perceived to have profited from connection to the pre-revolutionary government. 

Marouane Mabrouk, the former husband of Cyrine Ben Ali, daughter of former President Ben Ali, was arrested under a warrant stipulating five days of detention. Mabrouk is under investigation for his role in misusing state funds received by one of his businesses.   

Abderrahim Zouari, former Minister of Transport and Tourism under former President Ben Ali, was also arrested under a warrant stipulating five days in custody with the potential for that period to be extended. Zouari is alleged to have engaged in corruption, allowing him to benefit from his political position. 

Additionally, on 9 November 2023, another businessman, Nejib Ben Ismail, was arrested in relation to an investigation into corruption, drug use, and money laundering. He was imprisoned previously, but released in 2018 under orders to pay approximately 300 million dinars in financial penalties. 

In late September, President Saied visited a Carrefour store where he issued a warning to Tunisia’s wealthy businessmen to perform their “national duty” as the country struggles economically. Some commentators attribute ongoing arrests of wealthy businessmen to an effort by the current administration to recuperate taxes owed to the state or funds received through corruption during the Ben Ali years. 


A growing string of arrests of businesspeople in Tunisia has emerged in parallel to the arrests targeting current and former Ennahdha officials. Both groups represent, in the minds of many Tunisians, the source of the country’s economic and political struggles.  

The corruption under the regime of former President Ben Ali is often excused due to the relative stability many Tunisians associate with the period. However, the post-revolutionary politicians and businesspeople that sought to rebuild Tunisia and, some of whom benefited personally in the process, are the source of much anger and frustration. 

By maintaining pressure on former politicians and wealthy businessmen, President Saied is simultaneously operating under his popular mandate to address post-revolutionary corruption and mismanagement of the economy, while also seeking to collect much-needed public funds. Many of those arrested owe some form of taxes or penalties to the government which are increasingly needed to sustain the nationalized portions of the economy. 

We anticipate this sort of pressure on wealthy businesspeople, particularly those with political ties, will continue as the current administration seeks to recuperate funds at a particularly vulnerable economic moment. 


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