Mohsen Marzouk, a prominent Tunisian politician, has been named in the Panama Papers release, Tunisian news source Inkyfada reports. According to Inkyfada, Marzouk’s name came up in multiple instances of the emails leaked from the Mossack Fonseca law firm. Inkyfada’s editor-in-chief, Monia Ben Hamadi tells me that her organization collaborated with the ICIJ and ANCIR on this report.

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In one specific email from December 10, 2014, ‘MM’ who later identified himself as Mohsen Marzouk, stated “I would like to inquire about creating a company, in order to hold financial investments and engage in international business,” according to Inkyfada. These alleged emails took place between rounds 1 and 2 of the Tunisian presidential elections.

Marzouk was quick to deny the allegations, saying in an interview with Mosaique FM that he never contacted Mossack Fonseca, unless he sent the emails while “sleepwalking.” He went on to say that although he does not “know who is responsible,” he will bring a lawsuit against Inkyfada, for not doing their job in a correct manner. Furthermore, he believes that this is the work of “Tunisians” and “politicians,” and is not actually related to the Panama Papers.

Following the revelations, Tunisia’s head of the central bank, Chedly Ayari announced that he and his staff would “check the names of Tunisians in the Panama Papers.” Mohamed Dhia Hammami, an independent researcher focusing on high-level corruption in Tunisia tells me, “This will only affect Marzouk in the short term. This scandal will eventually go away.”

Only hours after the article’s release, the Inkyfada website was shut down. The group announced they were “undergoing a serious virus attack” during which “hackers managed to publish false information.” One of these pieces of false information implicated Tunisia’s former president Moncef Marzouki (different from Mohsen Marzouk) in the Panama Papers. Inkyfada later announced that these claims were false and that only Marzouk’s involvement was meant to be published.

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Marzouk was a founding member of the Nidaa Tounes political party. Along with current president Beji Caid Essebsi, Marzouk founded the party as an anti-Islamist coalition, aimed at countering the influence of moderate Islamist Ennahdha party. In the October 2014 elections, Nidaa Tounes won a plurality of seats, beating out Ennahdha for main control of the government. Marzouk then served as campaign manager for Essebsi’s successful bid to become president, which was capped off right before the beginning of 2015.

Rifts began to develop when Nidaa Tounes formed a coalition with Ennahdha, in order to create a functioning parliament. Once the coalition with Ennahdha was announced, certain anti-Islamist members of Nidaa Tounes became disillusioned with the direction of the party. On top of that, Beji Caid Essebsi raised the clout of his own son Hafedh, within the Nidaa party, thus further angering certain members of the party. Supporters of Hafedh later vandalized a building housing a meeting of Marzouk’s followers.

By January 2016, Marzouk led 22 members to resign from the party, thus paving the way for Ennahdha to regain a plurality with 69 seats to Nidaa’s 63.

In March 2016, Mohsen Marzouk announced the formation of his new political party, Mashrou’ Tounes, which is aimed toward reawakening the values of Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia’s first president post-independence.

 

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