Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Switzerland Blocks Former Haitian Dictator's Millions

Switzerland has used a new law to block millions of dollars held by former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier in Swiss bank accounts.

The law went into effect Tuesday. It was prompted at least in part by a legal battle over Mr. Duvalier's allegedly embezzled funds and is designed to make it easier for Swiss authorities to return illegally obtained funds to their country of origin.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry says the legislation governs the "freezing, forfeiture and restitution" of the assets of what it calls "politically exposed" people. It enables Swiss authorities to confiscate assets clearly of illicit origin, even when the person holding them has not been convicted in criminal proceedings in the country seeking restitution.

Mr. Duvalier has about $6 million in Swiss bank accounts. The money was frozen after he was ousted in a popular uprising in Haiti in 1986.

Separately, a United Nations official is offering Haitian authorities technical assistance in prosecuting crimes committed during the 15-year rule of Mr. Duvalier, who returned to Haiti last month after 25 years in exile. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says Haiti has an obligation to investigate the well-documented serious, human rights violations that occurred during Mr. Duvalier's rule, and to prosecute those responsible for them.

The former Haitian leader has been charged in Haiti with theft and misappropriation of funds during his 15-year rule. Haitian authorities filed the charges after Mr. Duvalier's unexpected return from exile last month. He also is being sued by several Haitians for torture and other crimes against humanity.


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