Swiss attempt to seize Duvalier assets

Switzerland has moved to confiscate frozen assets linked to former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.

This content was published on February 2, 2011 - 13:38 and agencies

The cabinet asked Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf to begin proceedings to seize around SFr6 million ($6.2 million) that has been frozen in Swiss bank accounts since 1986, with a view to returning the funds to the Haitian people.

It follows the entry into force on February 1 of a new Swiss law on returning illicit dictator assets. The law was tailor-made to move the Duvalier assets case forward.

Under the law, the cabinet can block contentious assets and will have up to ten years to launch action to confiscate the assets once they have been blocked. The confiscation of assets must be ordered by the Federal Administrative Court.

"The Swiss government, which has worked to find a solution for the restitution of the Duvalier money to the Haitian people, has used the powers conferred by the restitution law to take this case to court," the government said in a statement.

If the Duvalier family wants the funds released they will have to prove to the Federal Administrative Court that the funds were obtained legally.

In an interview with the Spanish-language television channel Univision on Tuesday, Duvalier said the frozen funds belonged to a foundation and if released, “most” would be used to rebuild the town where his mother was born.

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