"Duvalier Law" enters into force

The new Swiss law on returning illicit dictator funds has come into force, providing a new framework for the restitution of assets to failed states.

This content was published on February 1, 2011 - 21:45 and agencies

The law was formulated to help deal with cases such as that of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. Some SFr6 million ($6.2 million) linked to “Baby Doc” have been frozen in Switzerland since 1986.

A spokeswoman for the Swiss Foreign Ministry confirmed to  that the accounts are now blocked under the new law and the way is now open for the Swiss government to begin the process of confiscating the Duvalier funds and returning the money to the people of Haiti.   

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 declared by the Federal Administrative Court. 

It will be used when dealing with cases “where a request for mutual assistance cannot succeed in the requesting state due to the failure of its judicial system.”   

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

The Duvalier family will have to prove that the funds were legally obtained in order for them to be released.

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