The son-in-law of Tunisia’s deposed former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has been arrested in the Seychelles, the Tunisian authorities announced on Friday.
Sakhr El Materi, who was convicted in absentia of corruption by a Tunisian court, fled to Qatar just before the overthrow of his father-in-law’s regime in last year’s uprising, but the Gulf emirate agreed to expel him in September.
Fadhel Saihi, an adviser to the Tunisian justice minister, told Mosaique FM that Materi was arrested as he tried to enter the Seychelles with an expired diplomatic passport, and that he was being interrogated by police there.
Justice Minister Noureddine Bhiri said Tunis was doing everything it could to get him extradited.
“Sakhr El Materi went to the Seychelles after leaving Qatar. The Seychelles authorities opened an inquiry, because he was the subject of an international arrest warrant and because his passport had expired,” Bhiri said.
“The Tunisian authorities will do everything they can to get Sakhr El Materi extradited,” he added, speaking at a seminar on recovering the assets of the Ben Ali family.
Ben Ali and his close family used to go on holiday to the Seychelles in secret prior to the revolution.
Said to be the ex-dictator’s favourite son-in-law and long seen as a possible successor, Materi was sentenced last year to 16 years in prison and fined 97 million dinars ($61 million) for corruption and property fraud.
Married to Ben Ali’s eldest daughter Nesrine, the 31-year-old businessman owned Princess Holding and was active in virtually every economic sector.
His properties have either been confiscated or placed under state administration.
The Tunisian state announced in July that it would sell his 25 percent stake in mobile phone operator Tunisiana and his 59 percent stake in car dealership firm Ennakl, the agents in Tunisia for German carmaker Volkswagen.
Tunis has called on countries hosting fugitive members of the Ben Ali family to bring them to trial and return their properties to Tunisia.
The north African country has repeatedly asked Saudi Arabia, where Ben Ali took refuge with his wife Leila Trabelsi after they fled Tunisia on January 14, 2011, to extradite him.
Ben Ali has been sentenced in absentia to life in prison for presiding over the bloody protest crackdown that ignited the Arab Spring, and convicted on other charges that include incitement to murder, embezzlement and abuse of power.