Tunisia: media mogul bailed after charges of money laundering and tax evasion

A Tunisian media mogul was bailed for $3.7 million yesterday after spending two months in jail on money laundering and tax evasion charges, Agence France Presse (AFP) has reported. Assistant chief prosecutor Mohsen Dali pointed out that Nabil Karoui "must remain at the disposal of the courts."

Karoui is awaiting trial on corruption charges following an investigation that dates back to 2017. He was first arrested for tax evasion and money laundering in August 2019.

The 57 year old is a wealthy media mogul who founded Tunisia's main private television channel, Nessma, in March 2007 in partnership with his brother Ghazi Karoui, Tarak Ben Ammar and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. He also founded Qalb Tounes ("Heart of Tunisia"), a secular political party, in June 2019.

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Standing on the party's ticket, Karoui came second in the first round of Tunisia's presidential election in September 2019, despite being in jail at the time of the vote. He was released just in time for the runoff second round vote a month later, which he lost to President Kais Saied, after winning only 27 per cent of the votes. The same allegations saw him re-arrested on 24 December.

Having won 38 seats in parliament, Heart of Tunisia was second only to Rached Ghannouchi's Islamist Ennahda Movement, which won 52 seats. Heart of Tunisia now supports Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi's government, giving the cabinet a narrow parliamentary majority.

Nabil Karoui has attempted to present himself as a champion of Tunisia's poor and in recent years has improved his reputation with a charity TV show where he distributes household appliances to needy families. Supporters claim that his detention on corruption charges is politically motivated. However, his opponents claim that Karoui has used his wealth to create a television channel and charity which he runs for his own political gain.

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