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Swiss court overturns Salinas funds seizure, maintains freeze

Switzerland's highest court, the Federal Tribunal in Lausanne, has overturned the confiscation by Swiss authorities of $114.4 million linked to Raul Salinas de Gortari, the brother of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

This content was published on July 16, 1999 - 15:25

Switzerland's highest court, the Federal Tribunal in Lausanne, has overturned the confiscation by Swiss authorities of $114.4 million linked to Raul Salinas de Gortari, the brother of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

However, the court ruled that the money would remain blocked for the time being.

In a ruling published Friday, the tribunal said Federal Prosecutor Carla del Ponte did not have the powers to order the seizure.

Federal authorities should instead have passed the matter to individual cantons (states) as they were technically responsible for dealing with the offenses involved, the court ruled.

Del Ponte ordered the confiscation last October after a 2 1/2-year Swiss investigation concluded that funds in the accounts, of which Raul Salinas is co-owner, came partly from protection payoffs from drug traffickers.

Raul Salinas -- shown above in rare Mexican television footage -- is serving a 50-year prison sentence in Mexico for the murder of a top official of the country's governing party.

He denies taking payoffs to help drug shipments and has accused Swiss prosecutors of using questionable witnesses and exaggerating the size of his accounts.

His lawyers appealed the seizure, contesting the Swiss assertion that the money came from illegal sources. They challenged the use of anonymous sources and witnesses in the Swiss case.

The money is frozen in banks in Geneva, Zurich and London. The decision to block it is unaffected because it was made before del Ponte announced the separate move to confiscate the money, the judges said.

When the seizure was announced in October, the Swiss dropped their money laundering case against Raul Salinas, saying it was no longer necessary as Mexican authorities have started their own proceedings.


From staff and wire reports.

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