Tunisian president offers ‘penalty settlement’ to Tunisians who stole $4.8 billion

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Tunisian President Kais Saied said on Wednesday that “wrong economic choices” had caused major financial problems in his first comments on the economy since using emergency powers to seize the government late Sunday.

During a meeting with the head of the UTICA business union, shown in a video distributed by the presidency, Saied indicated that corruption cases are being cracked down, but said the intention was not to harm or abuse business people.

He said 460 people had stolen 13.5 billion dinars ($4.8 billion) from Tunisia and offered a “criminal settlement” if they returned the money.

“I propose criminal reconciliation with businessmen involved in looting the people’s money and tax evasion in return for their commitment to projects…corruption and an entrenched political elite.

Saied did not accept his proposal.

When he seized government powers on Sunday, a move condemned by opponents as a coup, he also said he would take over the public prosecution and lift the immunity of MPs.

Economic stagnation, with successive governments being pulled between the competing demands of foreign lenders and a powerful union, has contributed to growing public anger over Saied’s move on Sunday.

In his meeting with UTICA head Samir Majoul, the president also called on traders to cut prices and warned them not to hoard or speculate goods, saying violations would be prosecuted.

Following his statement, Tunisian bond prices fell sharply on Monday.

(REUTERS)