Tunisia freezes assets of former presidential hopeful

Slim Riahi, accused of money laundering in government anti-corruption drive, says he is victim of political blackmail.

    The origin of Slim Riahi's fortune is unclear [File: Anis Mili/Reuters]
    The origin of Slim Riahi's fortune is unclear [File: Anis Mili/Reuters]

    Authorities in Tunisia have announced that they froze the assets of football club magnate and former presidential hopeful Slim Riahi on suspicions of money laundering.

    An investigating judge imposed the restriction on all of Riahi's shares on the stock market, bank accounts and property, said prosecution spokesman Sofiene Sliti on Wednesday.

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    Riahi was quick to respond to the allegations, telling the private Nessma TV channel he was a victim of "political blackmail" and that the anti-corruption drive was selective.

    Without naming them, Riahi accused certain parties of being behind the move aimed at getting rid of him and denounced "defamation... by some media working for the government".

    Nebulous past

    The businessman has a nebulous past, with the origin of his fortune unclear, although he reportedly has links to the family of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

    Riahi is the president of the Free Patriotic Union (UPL) political party which came third in the 2014 parliamentary election.

    He ran for president in the same year and is also the owner of Club Africain, one of the two biggest football clubs in Tunisia which won this year's domestic cup.

    Wednesday's announcement comes after the government launched what Tunisia's Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has called a "war" on corruption from which he said nobody involved would emerge unscathed.

    Corruption was widespread in Tunisia under Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, a longtime president, who was overthrown in the 2011 uprising that started the Arab Spring, but it remains endemic.

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    SOURCE: AFP news agency


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