Saied Calls for Addressing the Issue of Embezzled Funds Abroad Before the Deadlines Expire

Tunisian President criticizes the slow progress of the Tunisian judiciary and administration in dealing with the issue of embezzled funds, pointing out that requests for extension should have been submitted to European courts much earlier than just two days before the deadline expiration.

President Saied urged the necessity of raising new issues against those who seized the resources of the Tunisian people after January 14, 2011, in order to enhance efforts made by the Tunisian authorities to recover embezzled funds during an economic and financial crisis the country is facing. As the deadline approaches to submit appeals to European courts in cases related to illegally transferred funds abroad, set for Thursday.

The issue of embezzled funds, both domestically and internationally, stands as one of the prominent matters that President Saied has committed to resolving. To facilitate this, a committee for penal reconciliation has been established, aimed at reaching settlements with businessmen accused of corruption, in exchange for returning the embezzled funds. The Tunisian President estimated these funds to amount to billions, which could be used for development in marginalized regions.

Saied sees these recovered funds as pivotal in addressing the economic crisis, as Tunisia’s request for around $1.9 billion in funding from the International Monetary Fund remains unanswered. In a meeting with members of the penal reconciliation committee in June, Saied stressed that retrieving these funds is a battle for national liberation, stating that doing so would allow the country to become independent from external parties.

During a meeting at the Carthage Palace, Saied requested from Minister of State Property and Land Affairs Mohamed Raqi and the General Commissioner for State Conflicts, Ali Abbas, to accelerate the submission of requests, accompanied by necessary documentation, to extend the freezing of embezzled funds abroad. This statement was published on the official Facebook page of the Tunisian presidency.

The presidency disclosed that “the deadline for submitting these requests is at the end of the current August, and any delay can benefit those who have looted the funds of the Tunisian people over decades.”

Saied criticized the sluggishness of the administration in the embezzled funds case, indicating that “requests for extensions should have been submitted much earlier than just two days before the deadline.”

The Tunisian administration has faced wide criticism from the President, who accused some officials of colluding to obstruct reform efforts. At one point, he called for verifying the authenticity of some academic certificates held by certain employees. He also emphasized the necessity of tackling excessive bureaucracy.

Before assuming power, Saied strongly criticized the administration for failing to take the necessary steps in the embezzled funds case, leading to European courts ruling in favor of some corruption-accused individuals who are close to the former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime and who had their assets frozen after the revolution.

In the meeting at the Carthage Palace, discussions revolved around “prolonged procedures and blatantly unfair conditions set by countries and banks holding embezzled funds, as some seek in-person hearings against the accused, despite knowing for certain that these individuals are abroad.”

Saied believes that the issue of embezzled funds has become a tool for European and Western countries to exert political pressure on his regime. He argued that past experiences have shown that people only receive a fraction of these funds, contradicting basic human and people’s rights.

He added, “If the Tunisian people were to recover these funds, rightfully amounting to billions in bank accounts, real estate, and movable assets, the country would not be facing this financial crisis. Their money is with them, and they want to lend Tunisians under their own conditions.”

The meeting emphasized the necessity for diplomatic efforts to parallel judicial action. Saied highlighted the need to present these issues within the framework of international and regional organizations, aiming to unify the positions of affected countries against the plundering of their nations’ wealth.

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