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Tunisian politician denies link to Swiss millions

Tunis, June 20, 2012

A prominent Tunisian politician and businessman denied on Wednesday that he had millions of dollars of assets hidden in Switzerland after a Geneva prosecutor said accounts linked to Khayam Turki had been frozen following embezzlement allegations.

Turki, a leading member of Tunisia's left-leaning Ettakatol party, was expected to become the North African country's finance minister after October elections that followed the ouster of former leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

But he declined to take up the post after Emirates International Investment Company (EIIC) raised mismanagement allegations against him relating to his time as a senior executive at the company. Swiss-based legal sources said the allegations involved misappropriation of assets.

Geneva prosecutor Dario Zanni confirmed this week that assets linked to Turki had been frozen while an investigation was underway. He declined to give details.

Turki told Reuters in Tunis that he did not have millions of dollars stashed in Switzerland or in other foreign accounts. 'I'm surprised by this as the first I heard of it was what I read on the Internet. I deny this entirely,' he said.

'I have no more than 5,000 euros held abroad in various accounts... as I used to work abroad, but not millions.'

Turki said he had instructed his Tunisian lawyer to appoint a legal representative abroad to look into the case and denied in a written statement the mismanagement allegations levelled against him by EIIC.

Turki is already facing an investigation in Tunisia over similar allegations, though no ruling has yet been made.

'I stress my innocence regarding the allegations made by the EIIC which I worked with in the past but resigned from more than four years ago, and I have already presented to the Tunisian judiciary all the documents to prove my innocence and I'm awaiting the judge's decision,' Turki said in his statement.

An unlisted company, the EIIC is the investment arm of Abu Dhabi-based business group National Holding.

In February 2008, when he was director general of EIIC unit Societe des Parcs d'Alger, the investment company launched plans for a $5 billion park in the crowded Algerian capital.

Turki told Reuters at the time that EIIC would use its own resources to finance Dounya Parc. The project was suspended after the Dubai real estate price collapse of 2008 but work has now restarted, according to regional news service Zawya.

Turki, who was educated in France and Tunisia, was finance director for Ettakatol's campaign in October's elections. He blamed the allegations on Tunisian political rivalries.

'Tunisian political sides that are enemies of Ettakatol stand behind these reports and their only aim is to undermine the reputation of the party and weaken it,' his statement said.  - Reuters




Tags: Tunisian | swiss | account | EIIC | Turki |

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