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Tunisia places travel ban on 12 officials suspected of corruption in phosphate mining

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A Tunisian judge on Monday banned 12 officials, including a former minister and lawmaker, from travelling, due to suspicion of corruption in the mining and transportation of phosphates, a judicial official said.

Two managers of the State Phosphate Company and a businessman who controlled the transport of phosphates were also targeted.

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President Kais Saied, who invoked a national emergency to seize control of the government by dismissing the prime minister and suspending parliament, has said gangs involved in corruption in the phosphate sector must be held accountable.

Tunisia’s state-run mining company Gafsa Phosphates last week transported phosphate by train for the first time in a year after it ceased shipments due to protests that closed the railway. It was an important boost for the country’s vital industry.

Tunisia was once one of the world’s largest producers of phosphate minerals, which are used to make fertilizers. But its market share fell after the 2011 uprising against then-President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

Since then, protests and strikes have steadily cut into production and caused billions of dollars in losses.

Tunisia produced about 8.2 million tonnes of phosphate in 2010. Output dropped to 3.1 million tonnes last year.