A Bermuda-registered oil company owned by the ruling family of Dubai and legally represented by the brother of Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi was handed oil exploration rights by the Tunisian government in a move described as “totally illegal” by a local anti-corruption watchdog.

Documents relating to the deal were published in a report this week by I WATCH detailing links between Salaheddine Caid Essebsi and the Maktoum ruling family of the Dubai emirate, hidden through shell companies registered in the Atlantic island tax haven.

I WATCH, which was set up in the aftermath of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, said the deal appeared to breach laws forbidding exploration rights being granted to companies registered in countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Tunisia.

It also called for a “full investigation” into the government’s approval in February of a share deal that allowed Dubai-owned Dragon Oil to inherit an off-shore oil exploration license.