The ECJ has annulled the extension of Mr. Mehdi Ben Ali’s inclusion on the EU’s so-called ‘Arab Spring’ list of restrictive measures relating to the Tunisian uprising. Mr. Ben Ali is the nephew of former Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Council Decision 2011/72 CFSP of 2 February 2011 and Council Regulation 101/2011 of 5 February 2011 freeze the funds of individuals said to have been “responsible for misappropriating the funds of the State of Tunisia” in January 2011.
Mr. Ben Ali was designated by the EU Council as the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed it that Mr. Ben Ali was the subject of a judicial investigation for money laundering offences in Tunisia. However, the ECJ held that this did not satisfy the criteria for designation as the EU council never maintained that an individual may be responsible for “misappropriation of State funds” merely because he is subject to a “judicial investigation” for “money-laundering” offences. In other words, money laundering does not automatically imply the handling of state, as opposed to private, funds. The conditions required in order for the extension of the freezing of funds were therefore not satisfied.
The judgment was handed down by the ECJ on 2 April 2014.