Aston Martin Vanquish for sale... one former (megalomaniac dictator) owner

Diamond pen and 39 cars among thousands of luxury items from deposed Tunisian president at auction

Looking for a last minute Christmas gift? What about a diamond-encrusted pen belonging to a former dictator?

Members of the public were today offered the chance to buy some of the abandoned trappings of former Tunisian president Zine El Aidine Ben Ali – the first leader to be toppled during mass protests of the Arab Spring.

A total of 10,000 items are included in the month-long sale at the luxurious Cleopatra Hotel in Tunis, in a bid to inject much-needed cash in government coffers.

The hoard at what is likely to be one of the most extravagant house sales ever seen includes 39 luxury cars, a cache of jewellery belonging to Ben Ali's wife Leila Trabelsi, works of art, furniture and thousands of items of clothing. The cars on sale include an Aston Martin Vanquish, hand-built in England by Ben Ali's son-in-law, and two Lamborg-hini Gallardos.

Those looking for smaller, ill-gotten knick-knacks can pick up a gilded falcon or a pair of gold sphinxes, while a pair of shoes could be yours for around £100. Items valued at less than 10,000 dinars (£4,000) will sell for a fixed price, while those worth more will be auctioned.

It was just over two years ago that Tunisian street-vendor Mohammed Bouazizi – whose livelihood was being threatened by bureaucracy – set himself on fire and later died from his wounds. His death is credited with being the catalyst for the Tunisian revolution and wider Arab Spring.

Amid growing resentment over rising unemployment and poverty, the showy lifestyles of the Ben Ali and Trabelsi families – which were estimated to control around 30-40 per cent of the Tunisian economy – created surging public anger. The mass protests that followed sent Ben Ali and his family fleeing to Saudi Arabia, leaving many of their possessions behind.

Most of the items on sale were collected from the Sidi Dhrif palace, one of Ben Ali's sumptuous palaces on the Tunisia's Mediterranean coast, which is also currently being sold off.

Tunisia's Youth and Sport Minister, Tarek Dhyab, said the items on sale constituted only a third of Ben Ali's possessions. "I say poor Tunisia: it was controlled by a gang leader – not someone fit to lead a country," he said.

Entry to the event is 30 dinars (£12), excluding most Tunisians, in a country where the minimum wage is just 320 dinars a month. The Tunisian government hopes to raise at least £8m from the sale. It has pledged to use the money on social projects, but that is unlikely to do much to quell rising anger with the government over the country's economic situation – one of the main grievances that fuelled the revolution.

With 18 per cent unemployment – a figure much higher among the youth – some are now calling for a new uprising.

The anniversary of Mr Bouazizi's death last week saw Tunisians take to the streets once more. The country's new president, Moncef Marzouki, was pelted with stones and tomatoes by protesters, shouting: "The people want the fall of the government."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Weekend Factory Operatives

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is curr...

Recruitment Genius: FP&A Analyst

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A market leading acquirer and m...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fully qualified electricians re...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service and Business Support Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: By developing intimate relationships with inte...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific