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Tunisia Offers Luxury Cars as Ben Ali’s Assets Go to Auction

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Dec. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Assets including Italian sports cars, art and jewels confiscated from Tunisia’s ousted president will be auctioned this evening, in a sale whose proceeds authorities say will be channeled to social projects in the country.

Roughly 12,000 items, including 22 luxury vehicles, hundreds of pieces of jewelery, ornate clocks, watches and paintings belonging to Zine El Abdine Ben Ali went on public display yesterday. The auction was to be held later this evening, the Finance Ministry said in an emailed statement.

Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia in January 2011, about a month after the start of a mass uprising against him also ignited a wave of protests in the Arab world that led to regime changes in Egypt and Libya.

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali urged wealthy Tunisians to step forward and make their bids, saying the money would be used to fund social projects in the country, the state-run news agency TAP reported Dec. 22.

Nearly two years after the start of the uprising, Tunisia’s economy is still struggling to rebound after a drop in tourism and foreign investment. The country has yet to approve a charter and unrest blamed on a small yet active group of ultraorthodox Salafis has stirred worries among secularists over the country’s traditionally secular nature.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jihen Laghmari in Tunisia via the Cairo newsroom at jlaghmari@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden in Dubai at barden@bloomberg.net

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