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Switzerland hands "Angolagate" files to France

Angola was ravaged by over two decades of civil war

(Keystone Archive)

Switzerland has given the French authorities bank documents seized in an investigation into alleged money laundering linked to illicit arms sales to Angola.

The justice ministry said on Wednesday that the files included information on seven frozen bank accounts, but declined to give further details.

The decision came after the cabinet rejected a final appeal to block the handover on Friday.

“Switzerland’s interests would be compromised if money possibly arising from criminal acts could be deposited in Switzerland without foreign authorities being able to gather information,” the government said in a statement.

“Switzerland’s financial sector must not be used for criminal ends.”

Justice officials in Geneva first authorised the handover of bank documents in 2002, but lawyers acting for those under investigation in France asked Swiss courts to block the move.

The Federal Court rejected their request in 2003, and lawyers then appealed to the government, claiming it was not in Switzerland’s national interests to get involved in the case.

Arms deal

The French investigation centres on the sale of $500 million (SFr630 million) in illegal arms to Angola, allegedly brokered by billionaire businessman Pierre Falcone.

The probe has also targeted the eldest son of the late French president, François Mitterrand.

Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, who served as an adviser on African affairs from 1986-92 under his father, is alleged to have received $1.8 million in illicit commissions from Falcone between 1993 and 1998 during Angola’s civil war. The two-decade conflict ended last year.

Jean-Christophe Mitterrand spent three weeks in jail in 2000 before posting $725,000 bail.

Falcone was also detained, but was released in 2001 after the maximum limit of his temporary detention expired. Both have denied any wrongdoing.

Another high profile name caught up in the scandal is the former European member of parliament, Jean-Charles Marchiani.

According to documents already handed over by the Swiss justice authorities, the former French government adviser deposited around SFr2.2 million in alleged kickbacks in a Swiss bank account.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The French authorities are probing the illegal sale of $500 million worth of arms to Angola between 1993 and 1994.

They first requested assistance from Switzerland in January 2001.

The Geneva justice authorities launched an investigation into alleged money laundering involving Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, son of the late French president, the same month.

He is said to have received $1.8 million in kickbacks from the arms deal.

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