Paris: France has seized 12 bank accounts of four aides of ousted Tunisian president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, worth 12 million euros, sources close to the investigation said Wednesday.
French courts had already seized an airplane belonging to the family of the former ruler during the course of an inquiry launched after the fall of his regime on January 14.
It follows a claim of corruption, misappropriation of funds and money laundering made by non-governmental organisations, Transparency International (TI), France, Sherpa and the Arab human rights commission.
"It`s a step, but it`s a drop in the ocean," lawyer for the plaintiffs William Bourdon told a news agency.
"It`s a first step. We are talking about modest sums. We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg," said the head of TI in France Daniel Lebegue.
The groups suspect that Ben Ali`s fortune "is not just the fruit of his salary" and are calling for the family`s assets to be handed over to the Tunisian people.
A source close to the investigation said around 30 assets, property and others, had been identified, including around 10 in the Paris suburbs.
"The question is that of returning the assets and for that we need a decision by the courts," Lebegue said.