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Tunisian ministers have to declare property under anti-corruption law

Senior officials in the public sector, banks, judges, security forces, journalists and unions are also subject to anti-enrichment measure
File photo of anti-corruption protest in Tunis, 13 May 2017 (AFP)

The Tunisian parliament on Tuesday approved a law to combat illicit enrichment, a step designed to strengthen the government's fight against widespread corruption in the country.

Since the 2011 uprising, Tunisia has been held up as a model of democracy for the region. Economic progress has lagged, however, and corruption remains a major problem in the North African state.

The law will force the president, ministers, senior officials in the public sector, independent bodies, banks, judges, security forces, journalists and unions to declare their property.

"The law is a revolution because it will allow the national group to scrutinise the unknown wealth that has been acquired illegally," Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said.

The parliamentary speaker, Mohamed Naceur, said the law "is another step in efforts to fight corruption, ensure transparency and preserve public money".

The penalties for illicit enrichment include fines and imprisonment for five years.

Last year, the government confiscated property and froze bank accounts of about 20 prominent businessmen arrested on suspicion of corruption in an unprecedented government campaign against graft.

Chafik Jaraya, who maintains political contacts in Tunisia and Libya and helped finance the Nidaa Tounes ruling party during the last elections in 2014, was among those arrested last year. He is in jail awaiting trial. His lawyer has said the charges are politically motivated.

Tunisia’s anti-corruption committee says graft is still widespread and threatens Tunisia with billions of dollars a year in losses.

It added that corruption had spread in all sectors including security, public tenders and health.

Tunisia was the first country to topple its president in the wave of the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions.

Former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who lives with his wife in exile in Saudi Arabia, has been convicted several times by Tunisian courts on corruption charges and for his role in the death of protesters during the uprising. Sentences against him have ranged from 10 years to life in prison. 

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