President, Tunisia (deposed)
Born in: Hammam Sousse, French Tunisia
Deposed: Jasmine Revolution
Where is he now: Exiled in Saudi Arabia
Wealth: $5 billion
After 23 years as Tunisia’s hard man, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was forced out in January by a massive popular uprising. The Jasmine Revolution began when 26-year old fruit seller Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest police harassment.
This coincided with Wikileaks revelations of corruption (Ben Ali freighted in ice cream from St Tropez, while his son-in-law kept a tiger that ate four chickens a day) and repression (‘a police state … with serious human rights problems’, according to secret US diplomatic cables).
After toughing it out for a month, Ben Ali fled to France on his private jet, but was refused permission to land. Frantic phone calls found him a bolthole in Saudi Arabia where he and his hated wife, ex-hairdresser Leila Trabelsi, were given a palace. Meanwhile, back home, the family’s luxury cars and homes were being trashed, and the Swiss authorities were freezing two bank accounts containing ‘tens of millions of Swiss francs’.
However, according to the French Secret Service, Leila had collected 1.5 tonnes of gold bars worth $37 million from the central bank on her way out. And plenty more is still missing, according to local politicians, who claim their president stole $5 billion from the country’s coffers.
In June, Ben Ali was sentenced (in absentia) to 35 years in prison for stealing public funds. Tunisia is now ruled by a coalition government, in which the Islamist Ennahda party has the largest number of seats.