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Switzerland freezes Liberian assets

Taylor is fighting to stay in power Keystone

The authorities in Bern have frozen SFr2 million (US$1.47 million) in Swiss bank accounts linked to the Liberian president, Charles Taylor.

The justice ministry said the accounts belonged to “two individuals associated with Taylor”, who has been charged with war crimes by a United Nations-backed court in Sierra Leone.

Desmond de Silva, the Deputy Prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, welcomed the Swiss authorities’ move.

“We have got to penetrate the walls of concealment that this indicted war criminal has thrown around his looted wealth,” de Silva said.

But the Swiss authorities say they have found no evidence Taylor himself has money banked in Switzerland.

“No accounts held directly by President Taylor have been found,” said a ministry spokesman in Bern.

He added that the federal prosecutor would now decide how to proceed.

Crimes against humanity

A month ago, the Swiss authorities ordered banks in Geneva and Zurich to freeze any accounts in Taylor’s name, or those of his associates, and to report on Liberian assets held in Switzerland.

The recently established Special Court for Sierra Leone has accused the Liberian president of crimes against humanity in connection with his support for rebels during Sierra Leone’s civil war from 1996 to 2001.

The court provided Bern with a list of names to search for amongst bank account holders and investors in Switzerland.

These include Taylor’s relatives, members of his government, companies and businessmen associated with the West African warlord.

Liberian investments

Liberia accounts for more financial transactions with Switzerland than any other African nation.

The Swiss National Bank released figures last year that show Liberian assets valued at SFr4.5 billion (US$3.3 billion).

Half of these investments in Switzerland are Liberian-owned property.

Taylor is believed to have received uncut diamonds from Sierra Leone’s rebels in return for his support during the civil war.

It’s thought he may have invested some of the proceeds of the diamond sales in Switzerland.

The Liberian leader is also accused of destroying the last of West Africa’s rainforests through logging activities.

swissinfo with agencies

Charles Taylor was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for war crimes on June 4, 2002.
He is charged with supporting rebels responsible for attacks on the civilian population of Sierra Leone during its civil war from 1996 to 2001.
Human rights groups and the United Nations have accused Taylor of enriching himself through the illegal trafficking in guns and diamonds.
The West African warlord was elected president after Liberia’s civil war (1989-96).

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR