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Argentina seeks progress in Menem inquiry

Carlos Menem during his 2003 election campaign Keystone

A legal delegation from Argentina is in Switzerland to ask for information on bank accounts linked to former President Carlos Menem.

This content was published on February 17, 2004 - 21:05

The eight-strong team met officials from the Swiss justice ministry in Bern on Tuesday, before travelling to Geneva.

Menem is under investigation for accepting bribes, illegal arms sales and money laundering.

“The talks will basically be about…what conditions need to be fulfilled in order for Switzerland to be able to grant judicial assistance,” said Folco Galli, spokesman for the Swiss justice ministry.

Last summer the Swiss authorities threw out a request for legal assistance from Argentina, claiming the evidence against Menem did not stand up to scrutiny.

Switzerland has declined all but two requests for information about bank accounts linked to Menem and his associates.

Geneva connection

On Wednesday the delegation met Christine Junod, the Geneva magistrate handling the Menem file.

The former Argentine leader is at the centre of a Geneva court investigation into money laundering, and is also the subject of two other federal probes.

The first federal investigation involves allegations of bribes relating to arms sales to Ecuador and Croatia from 1991-95 in violation of a United Nations embargo.

The second relates to a bomb attack on a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires in 1994 in which 86 people died. Menem is accused of accepting a $10 million bribe to cover up an alleged Iranian role in the bombing.

In 2002 a Geneva court blocked two bank accounts holding some $10 million on suspicion of money laundering and illegal arms sales by Menem.

The accounts are in the name of Menem’s ex-wife, Zulema Yoma, and another associate linked to the former president.

“Junod is due to look into the accounts of around 60 people,” said Norberto Oyarbide, one of the Argentine investigators.

Invitation

Switzerland invited Argentine officials to discuss the case back in August 2002 after receiving 19 requests for legal assistance and related information over the previous seven months.

Last November the Argentine justice minister, Gustavo Beliz, met his then counterpart, Ruth Metzler, and agreed to the visit.

Earlier in the year, the Argentine ambassador to Switzerland had complained to the press that progress in the case was “abnormally slow”.

Menem was placed under house arrest for five months in 2001 following charges that he headed an "illicit association" which dealt arms to Croatia and Ecuador during his years in office.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Carlos Menem was president of Argentina from 1989 to 1999.

He stepped down in 1999 amid allegations of rampant corruption in his government.

In 2001 Menem was placed under house arrest for five months in connection with arms sales to Croatia and Ecuador during his tenure.

He ran again for president in 2003 but quit the race.

Nestor Kirchner - of Swiss and Croatian descent - is the current president of Argentina.

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Key facts

Menem is accused of illegal arms sales to Croatia and Ecuador.
He is also alleged to have taken a $10 million bribe to conceal Iranian links to a bomb attack in Buenos Aires that killed 86 people in 1994.
A Geneva court has frozen two bank accounts allegedly linked to Menem on suspicion of money laundering and illegal arms sales.

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