Monday, March 8, 2021

Tunisian lawmaker faces corruption probe in medical masks scandal

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Tunisia’s public prosecution revealed that it has opened investigations into corruption suspicions related to a medical masks deal obtained by a businessman, who is a deputy in the Tunisian parliament and a member of the parliamentary industry committee.

Charges, confirmed by the country’s judicial and rights departments, especially the National Anti-Corruption Commission, compounded the level of embarrassment within the government of Elyes Fakhfakh, especially since the accused parliamentarian belongs to the reform bloc, which is strongly supportive of the ruling coalition.

Lawmaker Jalal Zayati, who is undergoing investigations, said that he received a phone call from the industry minister to produce two million protective masks in his capacity as a businessman, not as a lawmaker.

This, according to Zayati, took place before the government-issued order to produce 30 million masks as part of a preventive measure to combat the new coronavirus.

Zayati explained that the minister asked him if he was able to manufacture about two million medical masks in less than two weeks, and at a price of no more than 1.9 Tunisian dinars per mask (about 0.65 dollars).

Industry Minister Youssef bin Saleh denied knowing that the factory he contacted belonged to a parliamentarian and that his request does not require as a public contract. He said his ask was just a direct request to provide a quantity of masks to the public.

Over the past few days, the National Anti-Corruption Commission has submitted 11 reports to public prosecution to investigate corruption suspicions related to two deals on manufacturing masks.

Judicial research confirmed evidence of corruption involving two manufacturing deals struck for 30 million non-medical protective masks and another two million masks for the ministries of industry, health and trade.

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