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15 April 2013 - Media release

Return of Ben Ali yacht to Tunisian authorities highlights success of international police cooperation

INTERPOL National Central Bureaus facilitate recovery of illegal asset

ROME, Italy – A luxury yacht belonging to the family of former Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, seized last year by Italian police, has been returned to the Tunisian authorities, demonstrating the success that can be achieved through international police and judicial cooperation in the often complex legal realm of asset recovery.

The yacht was seized by Italy’s Guardia di Finanza in May 2011. Following extensive legal proceedings and close coordination between law enforcement in Italy and Tunisia, as well as between INTERPOL’s National Central Bureaus in Rome and Tunis, an Italian court agreed to repatriate the yacht to the Tunisian authorities. The yacht is estimated to be worth around EUR 1 million.

INTERPOL is coordinating international efforts to trace and seize assets belonging to Ben Ali and his family, following requests by the Tunisian judicial authorities seeking cooperation from their counterparts in other countries where the family is believed to have assets.

INTERPOL set up an operational working group to support member countries’ investigations into the tracing and recovery of the Ben Ali family’s assets. Investigators shared information, discussed solutions to the challenges facing international asset recovery, in particular the varying legal procedures among countries, and considered ways in which INTERPOL could facilitate the asset recovery process.

“This case is a prime example of how international police cooperation can achieve tangible successes, and we hope that law enforcement in other countries will take note and increase their information exchange, through INTERPOL channels, with their colleagues around the world,” said Jaime Ansieta, Assistant Director of INTERPOL’s Economic and Financial Crimes unit.   

“INTERPOL congratulates Tunisia and Italy for their efforts and close collaboration which led to this positive outcome in an area full of challenges.”

Mr Ansieta added that the case demonstrates the crucial role played by information exchange and law enforcement cooperation in tackling financial crimes and overcoming the difficulties faced by asset recovery investigators.