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Swiss “slow” to return Tunisia assets

The Geneva lawyer heading attempts to recover Tunisian assets worldwide has said Switzerland is not acting quickly enough to deal with funds frozen in Swiss banks.

Switzerland is holding onto SFr60 million ($65 million) belonging to former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his entourage.

Enrico Monfrini said the Federal Prosecutor’s Office – now in charge of such international cases under a new penal law – did not “always have enough staff competent in dealing with economic crimes and criminal organisations”.

Monfrini, who has worked on high-profile cases such as that of former Haitian leader Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, said the prosecutor had not yet granted Tunisia the status of complainant nor had it given Monfrini access to files on the assets.

Monfrini told, “the situation has paved the way for the other side to appeal, while giving them time to organise their defence and cleverly hide channels used for money laundering”.

Jeannette Balmer, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor, told the Swiss authorities were collaborating “closely and effectively” with their counterparts to restitute the assets to the Tunisian people as quickly as possible.
She noted that the issue of accepting the Tunisian state as a complainant as well as access to the dossier was subject to an appeal before the Federal Criminal Court. “The court is responsible for settling this question, which will then determine future procedural steps by the federal prosecutor.” 

As required by Swiss law, Tunisia filed a request for legal assistance for restitution of the assets in October, which then allowed for criminal investigations to be opened into the funds by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office. 

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR