Tunisians Loot Lavish Homes Of Former Ruling Clan Tunisians say they want a complete break with their autocratic former ruler. They say the president, his wife and her family abused power and enriched themselves at the expense of the Tunisian people, who are now trashing the family's villas.
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Tunisians Loot Lavish Homes Of Former Ruling Clan

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Tunisians Loot Lavish Homes Of Former Ruling Clan

Tunisians Loot Lavish Homes Of Former Ruling Clan

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From Tunis, Eleanor Beardsley reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONVERSATIONS)

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: The house belonged to businessman Moez Trabelsi, one of the 10 brothers of the president's wife, Leila Trabelsi.

MOUNIR KHALIFA: The (unintelligible) is in cinders. This is the thieves' house, robbers' house.

BEARDSLEY: Thirty-seven-year-old Ameljour Tela(ph), who started her own company, says doing business in Tunisia was hell.

AMELJOUR TELA: It was terrible and you are scared all the time. What if I cross them one day in my life, what will happen to me? After years of work, years of maybe one day I will meet them in the coffee shop, we are scared of phantoms called Trabelsi and Ben Ali.

BEARDSLEY: Just three days before the final wave of protest that brought Ben Ali down, writer Abd al-Aziz Belhoja(ph) took the risk of distributing documents showing the extent of what he calls the Mafioso activity of the president, his wife and her family.

ABD AL: (Through Translator) It reached unimaginable proportions. These people wanted to take over the country. That's why they took the banks and the media. She appointed the ministers because, after his death, she wanted to keep control of the country.

BEARDSLEY: In its two decades in power, Belhoja estimates that Ben Ali and his extended family stole about $20 billion, twice Tunisia's national budget.

(SOUNDBITE OF A VEHICLE DOOR)

BEARDSLEY: Our last stop is a magnificent balconied villa on a hillside, the home of a simple primary school teacher whose name happens to be Adel Trabelsi.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLATTERING)

BEARDSLEY: My guide, Mounir Khalifa, says no one in their wildest dreams would have imagined such a sudden and ignominious collapse of the Ben Ali/Trabelsi family.

KHALIFA: We suspected that tyrannical power is weak. But to this extent, this kind of weakness is just amazing. I think if there is one lesson to be learned, it's precisely that dictatorships, they're giants with feet of clay.

BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Tunis.

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