Ousted Tunisian leader Ben Ali's 34 cars and 48 yachts are seized


Further evidence of the extent of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's wide-reaching financial empire has been revealed after police reportedly seized dozens of luxury items and company shares belonging to the ousted Tunisian leader.

Among the confiscated items this week were 34 cars, 48 yachts, shares in 117 companies and 233 property deeds, according to officials quoted by the TAP news agency.

Mr Ben Ali's lawyer, Akram Azoury, said last month that he was planning to challenge the seizures. "It is not possible to confiscate the assets of a person before a ruling that respects the standards of a fair trial and rights of defence has been issued," he said.

Mr Ben Ali and members of his family were sentenced in absentia last June for embezzlement and misusing public funds. A later trial in July also found him guilty of possessing illegal drugs and weapons.

The assets of more than 200 companies including banks, insurers and car dealerships belonging to his family have already been confiscated.

Conservative estimates put the value of Mr Ben Ali's fortune at £5bn. His family has apparently accumulated even greater wealth.