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Corruption and Land Fraud

What is affected
Housing Private
Land Social/public
Land Private
Type of violation Dispossession/confiscation
Date 09 November 1987
Region MENA
Country Tunisia
City across the republic

Affected persons (number & composition)

Total 100
Men 0
Women 0
Children 0
Your solution
Download any important details Rapport_français_optimisé.pdf

Download any important development

Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)

Private party
Ben Ali and Trabeli families and collaborators
Brief narrative


As a final act of Tunisia’s Ben Ali regime in January 2011, the outgoing presidency established three committees to guide the transition, including a National Commission for Establishing the Facts about Corruption and Embezzlement. In November of last year, the Commission issued its fact-finding report, which characterized the system as "a set of interrelated elements interacting with each other so that the movement of any element of which has implications for the rest of the elements."[1] The report explained how corruption gradually spread and tightened its grip on all state institutions distorting the economy, the judiciary, political institutions, and social development.


With available information, including that provided by victims, the Commission ascertained that the majority of corruption took place at the intersection of administrative authorities and economic institutions; fraudulent land deals were at the forefront of corruption cases. The Commission uncovered the mechanisms of corruption to shed light on just how the executive, for example, re-zoned agricultural or fallow land for construction, or from one type of built-up land to another, thus, multiplying the economic value of the land several times for the land-holding members of the former president’s extended family and their close associates. The Real Estate Bureau is implicated in forging titles to land suitable for construction and illegally turning over state land for privatization at cheap prices, sometimes for a symbolic one dinar, as has been the case with farms turned over to ministers and others close to the former president.[2] This practice arbitrarily annulled standing contracts between the State and local peasants who had cultivated the land for many years.[3] By preventing them to access the land, the right to adequate food and nutrition of these people was unequivocally violated by the authorities. 


This practice was also linked to transactions subject to state-sponsored nepotism that served the ruling elite, by licensing certain economic activities ranging from distribution of automobiles and industries such as manufacture and sale of sugar and alcohol, and the importation of certain grains, fruits and various other goods under the monopolistic control of the president’s entourage. These measures sank many independent Tunisian enterprises into bankruptcy and eroded the national economy.[4] Much essential food production and distribution in Tunisia came directly under the control of the ruling clique not only by land grabbing. Beyond the production side, distribution and importation also formed part of an ubiquitous and integrated system involving most economic fields within the State, encompassing trade in everything from wheat to second-hand clothing.


These revelations at the source of the “Arab Spring” have echoed across the region, shedding new light on the nexus between corrupt governance and the mismanagement of land[U1] .


[1] The Commission received more than 10,000 files, investigated over 5,000 and referred about 300 cases to the judiciary. Certain administrative institutions did not cooperate with the Commission, such as the Ministry of Justice and, to a lesser extent, the Central Bank, which refused to provide information for the crucial 2006–2010 period. 

Report of the National Commission to Establish the Facts about Corruption and Embezzlement [heretofore: National Fact-finding Commission Report], http://www.hlrn.org/img/documents/RapportCorruption_CICM.pdf, [Arabic].

[2] National Fact-finding Commission Report, p. 56.

[3] “Section Two: Means of Illicit Enrichment,” Report of the National Commission to Establish the Fact about Corruption and Embezzlement, p. 12,  http://www.hlrn.org/img/documents/RapportCorruption_CICM.pdf [Arabic].

[4]Ibid, p. 13.

 [U1]the following sections provide a great deal of very detailed information which makes for tedious reading – perhaps the author can be persuaded to summarise more and also reduce the number of footnotes.

Excerpt from Joseph Schechla, "Land Grabs of the Arab Spring: Chronicle of Corruption as a Statecraft," Right to Food and Nutrition Watch (2012).



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