Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Swiss "Duvalier Law" freezes ex-dictator's funds

While Jean-Claude Duvalier tries to put his spin on Haitian history, some of the foreign assets he allegedly stole during his presidency will not return to his hands.

A Swiss law nicknamed the "Duvalier Law" went into effect today, which blocks millions of dollars worth of assets belonging to the former Haitian strongman. Officially known as the Swiss Restitution of Illicit Assets Act, the law eases the "freezing, forfeiture and restitution" of assets stolen by corrupt politicians. If Duvalier wants his assets back he will have to demonstrate that he got them through legal means; otherwise, the funds could be claimed by the Haitian government.

The law was passed last year partly due to an embarrassing Swiss court decision that would've returned $4.6 million from Duvalier’s accounts that had originally been awarded to Haitian charities. Before that could be done, however, the Swiss parliament swiftly passed the law that came into effect today.

Duvalier, who recently returned to Haiti after being exiled, said in an interview with Univision insisted that the frozen Swiss funds did not belong to him. He claimed that they instead belonged to a foundation established by his family and that a “majority” of that money would be used to rebuild his mother’s city of birth.

Duvalier has been accused of embezzling over $100 million in public funds during his presidency between 1971 and 1986. Reports vary as to exactly how much money he has in Switzerland though one local news source claims that it’s approximately $6.2 million.

Duvalier hasn’t been the only strongman, past or present, recently targeted by the Swiss government:
The Swiss government has faced growing international pressure to change banking regulations after revelations that financial institutions had accepted money from former dictators such as Duvalier and Nigeria’s Sani Abacha. Until now, Swiss authorities insisted the rulers must be convicted at home before considering restituting any assets…

Switzerland on Jan. 19 said it had frozen any holdings of former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo to “prevent any possible misuse of the funds.”
Image - AFP via BBC News
Online Sources- BBC News, CNN, RTT News,, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg

No comments: