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Tunisian government seizes Orange sub

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The Tunisian government has seized 51 per cent of local mobile network Orange from its previous owner - the son-in-law of the country's ousted president.

Mobile operating licenses have long been a favoured gift of dubious dictators to their equally dubious relatives - Zimbabwe is just one example.

The seizure is a result of the newly-formed Tunisian government taking action against 110 people, and their assets, linked to the previous regime.

Among these is Marwan Mobrouk, son-in-law of ex-president Zine al-Abine Ben Ali, who owned the majority stake. Orange Tunisie opened for business in May 2010.

It was aiming to spend €500m on the country's first 3G licence and claimed 800,000 customers.

L'Orange said at the time it was aware that Tunisia was "one of the world's leading tourist destinations. This is why the operator has already set-up the necessary international roaming agreements and has optimized its network in order to allow travellers to enjoy uninterrupted service."

L'Orange UK had no response by press time.

Les Echos, which broke the story, was told by France Telecom that the change would make little difference to operations which would continue as normal.

The new Tunisian government is setting up a commission to decide what to do with property confiscated from the old regime's chums.

It could be that France Telecom is offered the rest of the company. Alternatively it could be sold to a third party, or even remain the property of the Tunisian state.

The Les Echos story is here, and Google's English translation is here. ®

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