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A coup in Tunisia? Debunking a suspicious letter

Middle East Eye published an article entitled: Top secret Tunisian presidential document outlines plan for ‘constitutional dictatorship’ by David Hearst and Areeb Ullah. The leaked document, supposedly compiled by Kais Saied’s top advisers, urges the president to take control of the country. “On Sunday night, many political and civil society observers expressed doubts about the authenticity of the document. Journalists and politicians close to or affiliated with the Islamist trend, however, seized on the article as evidence of the fears they were expressing concerning Kais Said’s authoritarian temptation, mobilizing the trauma of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sissi’s coup in July 2013.

In this article, we will not report on the impressions of either side. Indeed, we have analyzed the document embedded in the article.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We remain at the disposal of fellow journalists to explain our approach and its limitations. However, the editorial staff of Barr al Aman Research Media specifies that it does not accuse any moral or physical person. This article gives the floor to the main person quoted. It is  based solely on public data. We call on colleagues not to headline their articles “Barr al Aman accuses” but rather, “traceback”. The editors call on the Middle East Eye media to respond to the elements we present here.

Where did “the document” come from?

This document was placed on the drive in “reading” mode and displayed to anyone with the link. The name of the file is “article_80.pdf”. The owner of the drive account is Mr. Mahmoud Bondok [1], a journalist of Middle East Eye. After downloading the document and analyzing the metadata, we see that this document was written in Word and that the author is Beta methods B(m). It is important to mention here that our article that follows assumes that the metadata of the document has not been modified.

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This company presents itself as follows: “Beta methods B(m). Beta methods is a Financial engineering and consulting firm, which was founded by experienced and internationally trained professionals.”[2]

Where is this company located?

The address of creation is in Borj Baccouche, Ariana as it can be seen on the extract of the “Registre de commerce” that we downloaded from the Registre national des entreprises (RNE).

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However, on google research, it is this address in “Lac 1” that we found: office D 3 2, Dar Maghrebia – Les Berges du Lac – 1053 – Tunis

Who is the representative of this company?

After identifying the company’s page on facebook[3], we were able to find its domain name. This domain is registered to Walid Balti[4]. A name that we also found in the RNE identity sheet available above.

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We are not saying that this person wrote the letter and this is not an accusation against the legal person he represents or his physical person. However, we say that the PDF document posted by Middle East Eye was exported from a Microsoft word program whose author is “Beta methods (m)”.

What is Walid Balti’s background?

A priori, there is no profile of Walid Balti on facebook (with his real name, Editor’s note). However, on linkedin, we find him with a profile picture that reminds us of the press conference room of the Kasbah, the seat of the Tunisian government.

Going back in his professional career, we notice that Walid Balti was an adviser to the Minister of Sports:

“Adviser of Minister of Youth and Sports

Ministry of youth and sports of Tunisia

Dates Employed Mar 2012 – Mar 2014

Employment Duration 2 yrs 1 mo”

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It was therefore under the government of the troika that he was appointed[5] and precisely by Tarak Dhiab. He was dismissed from the board of the public company Promosport on May 13, 2015 by order of the Minister of Sports Maher Ben Dhia.

Balti, the “spokesman” of a sports betting company

We find little about Walid Balti on facebook, except for this video interview on Cap FM[6]. He is there as a representative of the sports betting website www.bountou1x2.com. In the legal notice of this company, we find Beta Methods as one of the “two firms specialized in accounting, auditing, consulting and financial engineering. ” [7].

Although no mention is made of the role of spokesperson, there is an additional link between “bountou1x2” and “Beta Methods”. Indeed, the address of the “commercial department” of “bountou1x2” is office 2, 3rd floor block D dar Maghrebia – Les Berges du Lac – 1053 – Tunis, which is the headquarters of Beta Methods.

On the other hand, Walid Balti’s media outings are relatively rare. One of the most remarkable is undoubtedly this publication in 2018, which resembles a right of reply, published on the site of mtunisia[8] (previously Al Mutawassit, reputedly a conservative channel and close to the Ennahda party). He defended the activity of the company bountou1x2, as a promoter of sports and sports clubs, contrary to the statements of the CEO of the company Promosport where he sat a few years earlier.

Walid Balti, the activist for transparency and against corruption

What caught our attention in this open letter addressed to the CEO of the public company Promosport in 2018, is that Mr. Balti presents himself with his quality of former member of the board of directors of the company but also as a former adviser to the Minister of Sports. However, the speech he holds corresponds much more to his role as spokesman for Bountou1x2.

Although legally, there is no opposition to an individual working in the environment or sector of activity in which he or she was an advisor to the state, the risk of “revolving doors” is quite tangible. Indeed, by advising and amending legislation between 2012 and 2014 as an advisor to the Minister, Mr. Balti was in a privileged position a few years later as a consultant in the same field.

Mr. Balti’s response, reached by Barr al Aman Research Media:

We called the landline number of the company Beta Methods, Mr. Balti identified himself as the manager of the company, he said:

“I have no idea why my company’s name was mentioned in the metadata of this document. I have no relationship with Mr. Bondok. I thank you for warning us, especially since these are very serious matters. The fact that I was an advisor to the Ministry of Sports has nothing to do with it. I will ask our IT people to check, it could be any other company with the same name.”

What we don’t know until publication:

We found no public affiliation of Mr. Balti with any particular political party. He stated that he ‘has no connection with any particular party’.

Some publications about Mr. Balti have come from media outlets not known for their probity, such as Etthawra news, which accuses Mr. Balti of falsifying documents in connection with the president of the Tunis Tennis Club and his former superior Tarak Dhiab. 9

Our article does not incriminate Mr. Balti, nor the company Beta Methods. It questions them. Indeed, Mr. Balti is not alone in this enterprise. We have managed to identify two employees of Beta Methods. First, Mrs. Salhi[10] or Mr. Abdeladhim[11].

A Beta Systemes, behind Beta Methods

Our research through the employees allowed us to identify the latter (Mr. Abdelhadhim) as a “relay” person between Mr. Balti’s first company and the second, whose name resembles the first and which is domiciled at the same address: “Beta-systemes”[12][13] which has a dozen employees/collaborators, some of whom are foreigners.

The latter has several points in common with the former beyond the address. Bountou1x2 is a common customer. One of the employees works for both companies according to his linkedin profile. Another common point is the radio Cap FM which is a client of the second company but which invited the founder of the first to speak. Another element is that the employee who works for the “two betas” also worked for Cap FM and published articles as a journalist under that name[14]. However, the company that we found under this name in the RNE does not a priori correspond to the same company.

When questioned, Mr. Balti indicated that it was a company “domiciled” at this address.

The trade register of the Beta Systemes company that we found

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Références:

[1] Original link to the drive: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1o3e9B-0QeHxduPJvIG-cwOZYr5MALZ1u/ Click on the three dots at the top right of the screen to display the menu and then click on “Details” to see the owner.

[2] https://tn.linkedin.com/company/betamethods

[3] https://www.facebook.com/pg/Beta.methods/

[4] https://who.is/whois/beta-methods.com

[5] الجمهورية التونسية  —  قرار وزير الشباب والرياضة  رقــم 611  لسنة  2012  —   بتاريخ 12 / 6 / 2012

[6] https://www.facebook.com/CapFm.PageOfficielle/videos/1615192038561739

[7] https://www.bountou1x2.com/mentions-legales?system_code=CASUAL-B&language=fr&token=

[8] https://mtunisiatv.com/2018/02/28/%D8%B9%D8%B6%D9%88-%D9%85%D8%AC%D9%84%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%A8%D9%82-%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%AF-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D9%85%D8%BA%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%B1-%D9%85/

[9] http://athawra-news-tunisie.blogspot.com/2014/05/blog-post_30.html

[10] https://www.linkedin.com/in/amna-salhi-7886ba180/

[11] https://www.linkedin.com/in/elyes-abdeladhim-838033200/

[12] https://www.beta-systemes.com/

[13] https://tn.linkedin.com/company/beta-systems?trk=public_profile_experience-item_result-card_subtitle-click

[14] https://www.cap-fm.tn/ar/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B0%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%88%D8%B2%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%AC%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%82%D8%AA%D8%B1/

Mohamed HADDAD

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