TUNIS – Former Tunisian presidential candidate and media mogul Nabil Karoui has been arrested on charges of money laundering and tax evasion, a Tunis court spokesman said on Thursday.
Karoui spent most of last year’s presidential campaign in jail for the same charges, which he called politically driven. He was released just before the election, but the investigation continued. A judge in charge of financial cases ordered him jailed again on Thursday, said a Tunis court spokesman Mohsen Dali.
Dali said Karoui can appeal his arrest. Karoui’s brother Ghazi is also facing charges but was not arrested because he enjoys immunity as a parliament deputy, the spokesman said.
A member of Karoui’s support committee, lawyer Nazih Souii, said he was “surprised and shocked” by the arrest, and alleged that the judge acted under “political pressure.”
The case against Karoui was opened after a complaint four years ago by an anti-corruption group.
Karoui, a populist media mogul, founded Nessma TV and heads the Qalb Tunis party, the second-largest party in parliament.
Karoui was runner-up in last year’s presidential election, won by Kais Saied, a conservative professor who has vowed to root out corruption that has contributed to Tunisia’s economic struggles.
Both candidates rode to the presidential runoff on the disenchantment of Tunisians, particularly young people and the poor, who felt the governing class hasn’t fulfilled the promises of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, which unleashed revolts around the Arab world.
Other prominent figures have also been targeted recently in corruption investigations.