Former Tunisian Prez`s wife `flees country with 1.5 ton gold`

Leila Trabelsi went to the Central Bank of Tunisia to fetch the gold bars.

Updated: Jan 18, 2011, 21:57 PM IST

London: Tunisia`s ousted President Zine
al-Abidine Ben Ali`s wife has fled the riot-torn country with
1.5 tons of gold worth more than 45 million Euros, according
to a French media report.

Leila Trabelsi, the wife of the 74-year-old former
president now in exile in Saudi Arabia, went to the Central
Bank of Tunisia to fetch the gold bars, France`s `Le Monde`
newspaper quoted the French secret service as saying.

The governor of the bank is reported to have refused
to give them to her, so 53-year-old Trabelsi rang her husband
who personally intervened, and she flew out with the bullion
as she joined him in exile in Saudi Arabia, the daily said.

"It seems that the wife of Ben Ali left with some
gold, 1.5 tons or 45 million euros worth," the British media
quoted a French politician as telling the French newspaper.

But a central bank official denied receiving verbal or
written orders for gold withdrawals, adding that the country`s
gold reserves "have not moved", `Le Monde` said.

However, an official from the Elys?e Palace told
`Le Monde` that "this information comes directly from Tunisia,
in particular the Central Bank. It seems to be pretty much
confirmed."

After 23 years of dictatorship, the former PresidentBen Ali fell to a wave of student protests on Friday, fleeing into exile from the Arab nation that had descended into blood -soaked chaos and riots.

The French government also believes that the Libyan
secret service may have helped Ben Ali flee in order to avoid
violence, the newspaper said.

PTI