Ben Ali-linked bank seized in Tunisia: statement

Tunisia’s central bank on Wednesday took over a bank controlled by a son-in-law of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the first such move against the huge assets controlled by the Ben Ali family.

Zitouna, Tunisia’s first Islamic bank, was set up last May by Mohamed Sakher El Materi, who was named in a wide-reaching investigation opened on Wednesday into the domestic and foreign assets held by the former strongman’s family.

“The activities of Zitouna Bank have been placed under the supervision and control of the Tunisian Central Bank,” the bank said in a statement.

Materi, a senator, holds a 51-percent stake in the bank and many other assets. He fled following Ben Ali’s ouster, Tunisian media reported.

The bank, which has 25 branches, said it was “dealing with a crisis of confidence of certain economic players,” without adding further details.

Tunisian website Businessnews reported that the bank has been losing 700,000 dollars (519,000 euros) a day since Ben Ali’s downfall.

The central bank has put Zitouna under temporary administration.

Ben Ali resigned abruptly and fled to Saudi Arabia on Friday amid a wave of protests against his authoritarian regime.