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Legal assistance given to Argentina

Carlos Menem, former president and convicted arms trafficker Reuters

Switzerland has handed information to Argentina about a bank account belonging to Argentina’s 83-year-old former president and convicted arms trafficker, Carlos Menem.

This content was published on September 4, 2013 - 16:29
swissinfo.ch and agencies

Switzerland had previously been asked for legal assistance by the Argentinian authorities in 2010 concerning a 1997 bribery case involving Menem and officials in the Argentinian communications ministry, according to an article in the Tages-Anzeiger and Der Bund newspapers on Wednesday.

Argentinian prosecutors thought $25 million (CHF23.4 million) paid in connection with the award of a national radio licence was being kept in a Swiss account belonging to Menem, from where it was transferred abroad.

On July 18 this year, the Federal Criminal Court gave the green light to the Geneva public prosecutor to provide legal assistance in a bribery case going back to 1997. This has now been done.

“On Wednesday, our office sent the information related to the supplemental request submitted in 2010,” Folco Galli, spokesman for the Federal Justice Office, confirmed to swissinfo.ch.

Just before Menem closed his account in 2004, it contained around CHF1.2 million ($1.28 million).

In 2002, the Swiss authorities froze two bank accounts holding $10 million, which were in the names of Menem’s ex-wife Zulema Yoma and an associate of the former president.

Immunity

As a senator, Menem has parliamentary immunity that can only be removed by the Senate.

For now, Menem remains free despite the seven-year sentence he received in June after being convicted - while he was president - of smuggling weapons to Croatia and Ecuador when those countries were subject to international embargos.

On Monday, another trial began for Menem. This time he’s charged with falsifying his official wealth declaration in 2000. Menem allegedly failed to mention four bank accounts, two properties, two ultra-light airplanes, stock in telecom companies and two vehicles.

One of the bank accounts was opened in Liechtenstein with $6 million while he was president in the 1990s.

He faces a six-year sentence if convicted, but his defence argues that too much time has passed to try him now.

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