Swiss urge UN action over Ben Ali funds

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has called on the United Nations to push for the return to Tunisia of frozen funds linked to the former Ben Ali regime.

This content was published on September 29, 2011 - 08:43 and agencies

Calmy-Rey, who also holds this year’s rotating Swiss presidency, was speaking on the first day of a two-day European Union-Tunisia Task Force meeting in Tunisia.

“The Security Council could agree sanctions which could then allow for the confiscation of blocked funds,” the minister said on Wednesday.

Switzerland was the first country to freeze funds - SFr60 million ($67 million) – belonging to former Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his clan after Ben Ali was overthrown in January.

“The return of funds taken away from the population by the Ben Ali regime is a key challenge for the new Tunisia and its ability to invest,” added the minister. Switzerland wants to return its blocked funds as quickly as possible, she said, according to the text of her speech.

But Swiss law only allows the money to be returned after its source has been declared illicit in court, Calmy-Rey said. This takes a long time.

Thus Switzerland would like to find an international solution to the issue, she declared.

Calmy-Rey then pointed to the fact that after the fall of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the UN had approved a resolution to confiscate all of the former leader’s assets and return them to the Iraqi people.

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