Former Tunisian agriculture minister held over suspicion of graft

Mehdi Ben Gharbia was detained over suspected tax fraud and money laundering

  
Image used for illustrative purpose. Handcuffs hang on a secured wall at the special management unit during a media tour at Northwest ICE Processing Center, one of 31 dedicated ICE facilities that house immigration detainees, in Tacoma, Washington, U.S. December 16, 2019.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Handcuffs hang on a secured wall at the special management unit during a media tour at Northwest ICE Processing Center, one of 31 dedicated ICE facilities that house immigration detainees, in Tacoma, Washington, U.S. December 16, 2019.

REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

TUNIS- A former Tunisian agriculture minister and seven other ex-officials have been detained on suspicion of corruption, judicial authorities said, the latest move against graft that has hampered economic reform efforts.

Since President Kais Saied dismissed parliament and seized near total control of the country in July, in a move critics called a coup, he has vowed to root out systemic corruption.

Last week, lawmaker Mehdi Ben Gharbia was detained over suspected tax fraud and money laundering - the fourth parliamentarian to be taken into custody since Saied's move.

A statement from the Tunis court said the arrest of the eight former officials was related to suspected graft in the purchase of equipment for the agriculture ministry. The name of the former agriculture minister was not immediately released.

Saied's intervention in July followed years of political paralysis and economic stagnation, and has been welcomed by many people in the North African country.

But critics have labelled it a coup that has undermined democratic gains made since the country's 2011 revolution, which ended autocratic rule and triggered the Arab Spring.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara Editing by Mark Heinrich) ((tarek.amara@thomsonreuters.com;))


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