Precautionary seizure of the Tunisian State's assets in the BFT, after international arbitration
06/09/2019 21:36, TUNIS/Tunisia

(TAP) - The State Litigation Officer, Chedly Rahmani, told TAP on Friday that the verdict of the World Bank's Arbitration Tribunal, The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) , in the case between the Tunisian State and the ABCI Investment Group, concerning the Tunisian Foreign Bank "BFT", is not definitive.

It is just a "preventive precautionary seizure on the assets of a Tunisian public bank, the majority shareholder in the BFT. The seizure will be appealed by the lawyers of this same public bank," he said.

It is not an executive seizure, he reiterated, noting that "the cost of the compensation that the Tunisian State is called upon to pay, of $1 billion, as reported by the media, is only an estimate of the complainant".

"The legal proceedings in this case will continue until 2021, according to an already defined timetable, in consultation between the persons in charge of this arbitration case in Tunisia and the ICSID".

"Tunisia's financial interests are in no way affected. We are not in a weak position and we are going all the way in defending our rights. Moreover, the timing of the announcement of this verdict is not entirely innocent," he accused.

The ABCI Investment Fund, based in the Netherlands, has made a seizure on the assets of the Tunisian-French bank "BFT" based in Paris, following a verdict of the ICSID, on September 2, 2019, according to the "Maghreb Confidentiel" website.

The Tunisian State, which holds the BFT through the Société tunisienne de banque (STB) and the BH Bank, risks, under this verdict, to pay the plaintiff approximately 1 billion dollars, or more than 2.5 billion dinars.

The ICSID considered that the Tunisian State is responsible for this case, which has been dragging on for nearly 30 years. It alleges that he expropriated the investment of ABCI Investments Limited, organised a denial of justice and violated the right of the majority shareholder of BFT to manage its property, thereby ignoring Tunisian and international law.

During 30 years of conflict, while ABCI sued the Tunisian state for spoliation, BFT was managed by the state. It was almost bankrupt initially because of the practices of the former regime of Ben Ali and his relatives. Nor has this issue been well managed and taken seriously by successive governments since the revolution due to conflicts of interest and the involvement of several government officials and senior officials in this case.

The Tunisian authorities are called upon to find a solution to this ongoing affair, which will have major impacts on the Tunisian economy and the country's image on the international scene, according to several experts and economists.

The IMF had also raised the BFT case since July 2016 and implicitly assessed its impact on the Tunisian economy and the state budget.

Indeed, the preliminary findings of an IMF mission to Tunis from July 12 to 19, 2016 indicate that "additional budgetary costs of 3.5% of GDP in 2017, not foreseen in the programme, mainly from the wage bill, the social security fund deficit (in the absence of reforms), and the resolution envisaged by the BFT authorities, make the implementation of reforms imperative in order to maintain macroeconomic stability and promote more inclusive growth".

The Tunisian State's responsibility in the BFT case was acknowledged in 2017, and all requests for review were rejected. The Tunisian State has also repeatedly refused ABCI's proposal for an amicable settlement.

"They want to impose a settlement on us on unsustainable terms, but we will not give in," said State Litigation Officer Chedly Rahmani.

The Tunisian Foreign Bank (TFBank) is a bank under French law affiliated to the French Banking Federation.

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