MONTREAL — A reclusive billionaire and member of Tunisia’s deposed ruling clan has seen his bid for refugee status in Canada rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Belhassen Trabelsi, the brother-in-law of former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was seeking status in Canada, arguing he faces an uncertain future if returned home.

Trabelsi is accused of looting Tunisia’s public treasury and faces a variety of criminal charges in his homeland.

In a 35-page ruling made public Monday, the board said there is reason to believe that Trabelsi committed serious non-political crimes in Tunisia.

“The panel is of the opinion that there are serious reasons for considering that the claimant … committed serious non political crimes, specifically fraud on the government, fraud and laundering proceeds of crime,” the ruling reads.

The ruling noted that these are serious crimes and in Canada, some of those same accusations carry sentences of more than 10 years upon conviction.

While the board said the majority of the evidence is circumstantial, the ruling noted it is the very nature of financial crimes.

The board looked closely at Trabelsi’s business relationships and contracts and the wide array of businesses he had a stake in — everything from cement production to television studios.

It cited a World Bank report that stated “those close to Ben Ali reaped the benefits of an economy based on cronyism, and that regulations were adapted to serve private interests and be conducive to corruption.”

Trabelsi has been in Montreal since January 2011 after fleeing his country by private jet while the Ben Ali regime was collapsing. Trabelsi’s sister is married to Ben Ali.

Trabelsi’s permanent residence status in Canada was stripped upon arrival. To keep one’s permanent residence status, a person must remain in Canada for at least two years out of every five and Trabelsi failed to meet that requirement.

Trabelsi can now seek leave to appeal to the Federal Court, requesting a judicial review of the decision.

Noel Saint-Pierre, Trabelsi’s lawyer, wasn’t available on Monday, but he has until later this month to make the request.

Trabelsi himself could not be reached on Monday.

The decision affects only Trabelsi — his wife and children’s refugee status request were severed and being looked at separately.

The hearings were held over 20 months in Montreal.

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