* Sherpa, Transparency Intl accuse Ben Ali of corruption
* Lawyer says French asset-tracking measures insufficient
PARIS, Jan 17 French rights groups Sherpa and
Transparency International France will file legal complaints
against Tunisia's ousted president for corruption and misuse of
public funds to ensure his assets in France are frozen, the
groups said on Monday.
Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled his country on Friday after 23
years in power, folding under the pressure of weeks of violent
street protests over unemployment, high food prices and the
authoritarian nature of his regime.
The case to be lodged in the next few days by Sherpa and the
French subsidiary of Berlin-based corruption watchdog
Transparency International accuses Ben Ali of corruption,
misusing public funds, and money-laundering.
"The aim is to obtain the freezing of all Ben Ali family
assets in France to avoid them being transferred to faraway
locations," Sherpa spokeswoman Maude Perdriel-Vaissiere said.
Paris said at the weekend it had taken steps to block
suspicious movements of Tunisian assets in France, where Ben Ali
and his family are believed to have real estate holdings.
Economy Minister Christine Lagarde specified on Monday that
would not entail the actual freezing of all Ben Ali's assets.
William Bourdon, Sherpa's founder and chief legal counsel,
said Ben Ali's family had made considerable investments in
France through opaque banking transactions.
"French authorities are perfectly aware that France is a
haven for financial and banking investments, diverted for the
benefit of the larger Ben Ali clan," he told RTL radio. "They
are real estate investments made through a number of commercial
groups and a number of banking groups, in the dark."
French government spokesman Francois Baroin told journalists
on Saturday it was unclear how much Ben Ali's holdings in France
were worth. The government had ordered banks to investigate and
they would report their findings within days, he said.
Bourdon said he believed a trial would be complex given what
he said were a group of advisers around Ben Ali who protected
his financial interests, and he criticised the French government
for not freezing Ben Ali's assets outright.
(Reporting by Gerard Bon, writing by Nick Vinocur; editing by