The Central Bank of Tunisia (BCT) received yesterday the file of Italo-Luxembourger financial holding company Royal Luxembourg Soparfi, which won a tender for a 13% stake in Banque de Tunisie (BT) on November 19, said Deputy Minister of Economy Ridha Saidi in an interview to TAP.
The tender was worth 217 million dinars ($139 million).
The 13% stake in BT originally belonged to Belhassen Trabelsi, brother-in-law of ousted Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, and was taken over by the state following the revolution.
In the bidding process for BT shares, Royal Luxembourg faced public accusations related to money laundering and other illicit activities.
But Saidi said in the interview that initial data from the transactions and financial structure of the holding company did not elicit suspicions of illegal activities.
“The transfer of shares… in the capital of BT to the Luxembourg fund took place in full transparency and in accordance with standards,” Saidi said.
The BCT is now reviewing the finances and activities of Royal Luxembourg in its file. Saidi added in the interview, “The BCT has the technical means, the expertise, and the network of relationships that allow it to check all data relating to the [holding company’s] financial structure.”
The BCT was not available for comment on the progress in the review of Royal Luxembourg’s file.
Ben Ibrahim estimated that the review process will last between four and ten days, and said that BCT’s Council of Financial
Markets is the organ in charge of Royal Luxembourg’s file.
The holding company’s successful bid for 13% stake in BT comes as the government is seeking to sell off assets that once belonged to Ben Ali and several in-laws in order to raise revenue for the state budget.
Already 918 million dinars have been collected in such a way, said Hedi Ben Ibrahim, a member of the Finance, Development, and Planning Committee in the National Constituent Assembly.
According to Ben Ibrahim, the funds gathered from the BT tender will be “dedicated to regional development in industry, agriculture, infrastructure, introduction of water, and employment.”
Around 5.5 billion dinars out of the entire state budget is to be allocated to regional development, he added.
The Ministry of Finance announced yesterday that it would exhibit an array of Ben Ali’s confiscated possessions for sale in the upscale Tunis suburb of Gammarth as of December 14.
Amira Masrour contributed to reporting