Under the Black Flag

An Arab Shopping Spree

What is it with the wives of despots?  Leïla Ben Ali (Baba), ex-first lady of Tunisia and a former hairdresser, makes her escape from the country her hubby and her relatives raped, but not before a brief stop at the bank where she demands and receives one-and-a-half tons of gold—worth 67 million big ones—which she takes on a private jet and flies away with.  Goodbye Tunisia, hello Saudi Arabia, now the ultimate destination of Muslim crooks, a trend started by President Idi Amin of Uganda, a character straight out of Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief.

Leïla has left no cliché unturned when it comes to unbridled greed and Caligula-like indulgences featuring fast luxury cars—more than 50 for herself alone—multiple grand houses scattered around the globe, and numerous shopping excursions to Dubai, where two large airliners would be filled to the brim with goodies for Madame la Présidente, all paid for with state funds.  Five billion dollars is the estimated wealth of the Ben Ali (Babas), now resting comfortably with their fellow Muslim hosts, the Saudi “royals,” themselves ex-camel drivers posing as custodians of Saudi oil wealth.  (For “wealth,” read “palaces, yachts, airplanes, hookers, and whiskey.”)

Leïla liked the good life, one she was not accustomed to at an earlier age.  She used to fly in luxury goodies by plane, including...

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