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France asks Switzerland to block Mitterrand accounts

Jean-Christophe Mitterrand admits he received payments through a Swiss account

(Keystone)

France has asked Switzerland to freeze the accounts of Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, the son of the late French president, Francois Mitterrand. Mitterrand has been arrested for alleged illegal involvement in the sale of arms to Africa.

"A request for legal assistance has been made in Switzerland to gather further information and secure the freezing of accounts", the French Court of Appeal in Paris said on Tuesday.

The Geneva public prosecutor, Bernard Bertossa, told swissinfo that Switzerland had received the request.

"We did receive a request for cooperation from the French authorities. I do not see any reason why we should not give our cooperation, since the request has conformed with the European Convention for assistance in criminal matters and respects the convention between Switzerland and France," Bertossa said.

The 54-year-old Mitterrand is currently under investigation for "complicity in arms traffic" and using his influence to help negotiate arms sales to Africa without the French government's approval.

Mitterrand was his father's adviser on African affairs from 1986 to 1992.

The French justice authorities suspect that Mitterrand received substantial sums of money for helping to seal arms deals between the former Soviet Union and the regime of president José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola.

The deals in 1993 and 1994 were allegedly worth $500 million, and helped the Angolan government pursue the 25 year-old civil war.

Mitterrand has acknowledged receiving payments through a Swiss account worth $1.8 million, but said that the money came from other legal deals in Africa.

by Samantha Tonkin

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