Swiss freeze accounts linked to Menem

Menem is under house arrest in Argentina Keystone Archive

Switzerland has blocked two bank accounts linked to former Argentine president Carlos Menem amid investigations of alleged money laundering and illegal arms sales to Croatia and Ecuador.

This content was published on October 4, 2001 - 20:05

Claude Wenger, a Geneva investigating magistrate, said the accounts were blocked last week after a request from Argentina for judicial assistance in its probe.

"I ordered two accounts frozen," said Wenger. "They were not held in Mr Menem's name but in the name of people close to him. A cantonal investigation has been opened into money-laundering."

Wenger confirmed Swiss media reports that one of the accounts was held by Menem's ex-wife and daughter. The other was opened by a company that he declined to identify.

Argentina asked Swiss authorities last month to help it find bank accounts held by Menem or other former officials as part of an investigation into whether they took kickbacks for arms deals.

Narrow inquiry

Asked if his investigation involved only Menem or other Argentine officials, Wenger said it was a "pretty narrow" inquiry.

Menem, 71, was arrested in June on suspicion of selling weapons to Croatia in the early 1990s in violation of a United Nations embargo, and to Ecuador during a border war with Peru in which Argentina was a peace mediator. The former president has maintained his innocence.

Wenger declined to name the banks involved or reveal the sums that may have passed through the accounts. "I am at the start of the investigation," he said. "I await documentation from the banks to analyse the movement of funds."

The Argentine request specifically alleges illegal arms sales, while the Geneva inquiry so far is for alleged money laundering, which is a crime under Swiss law, according to the investigating magistrate.

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