Swiss Say Funds Tied to Tunisia’s Ben-Ali May Total $84 Million

Swiss assets linked to former Tunisian President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali may total as much as 80 million francs ($84 million), the Federal Police Office said.

Ben Ali, 74, who fled to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14 following weeks of unrest over unemployment, corruption and repression, was the first Arab leader to be forced out by popular unrest since at least 1985. Switzerland froze assets belonging to him and his immediate circle five days later “to prevent any possible misuse.”

“Based on about 30 reports of suspicious activity in connection with money laundering with relation to Tunisia, there is about 80 million Swiss francs,” Stefan Kunfermann, a spokesman for the federal police in Bern, said by phone today.

Under Swiss law, the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland is responsible for receiving and analyzing suspicious-activity reports in connection with money laundering and, if necessary, forwarding them to law enforcement agencies, Kunfermann said.

The Swiss government has faced international pressure to change the country’s banking regulations on revelations that financial institutions had accepted money from former dictators such as Nigeria’s Sani Abacha and Haiti’s Jean-Claude Duvalier.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer M. Freedman in Geneva at jfreedman@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net.

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