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Swiss to give assets of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier to Haiti

Jean-Claude Duvalier

Jean-Claude Duvalier

FromĀ  a press release from the Swiss Federal Office of Justice:

Berne. The assets of former Haitian President Jean-Claude Duvalier which have been frozen in Switzerland are to be handed over to Haiti. The lawful origin of the assets, worth some 7 million Swiss francs, could not be proven by the account holders. The assets will now be used for development projects for the benefit of the Haitian population. Appeals against this Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) ruling may be lodged with the Swiss Federal Criminal Court within 30 days.

The Haitian authorities accuse former President Jean-Claude Duvalier of having plundered state coffers, with the help of members of his entourage, from the time he took office in 1971 until 1986, when he fled the country. The misappropriated funds, of several hundred million US dollars, are alleged to have been invested abroad. In its ruling, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice held that the Duvalier clan acted in the same way as a criminal organisation, as defined in Art. 260ter of the Swiss Penal Code (Strafgesetzbuch). As such, the case fulfils the dual criminality condition that applies to the provision of legal assistance in criminal matters. Furthermore, the seizure provisions of the Penal Code also apply according to the legal precedent set by the Federal Supreme Court in the Abacha case. This reverses the burden of proof. As the statements submitted by the account holders failed to provide any evidence or explanation of the lawful origin of the approx. CHF 7 million in assets that were frozen in Switzerland, the Federal Office of Justice has ordered that these assets be handed over to Haiti.

Destined for social or humanitarian projects

The Federal Office of Justice ruled that the assets that are being handed over to Haiti are to be used for social or humanitarian projects to benefit the Haitian population. Non-governmental organisations with the relevant experience in these fields are also to be considered for funding. The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs has already made contact with interested organisations, and will monitor the implementation of the projects, as well as the transparent use of funds, locally via the Swiss mission in Port-au-Prince.

Ruling not yet final and absolute

The Duvalier funds will remain in Switzerland for the time being, as the Federal Office of Justice ruling is not yet final and absolute. The individuals concerned may lodge an appeal with the Swiss Federal Criminal Court within 30 days.

Let’s hope the funds do get transfered to Haiti. The Haitian people could certainly use them.

(HT: Mark Vlasic)

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Welcome! Who am I?

Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.