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Yugoslavia seeks Swiss help in tracking down Milosevic funds

Video image of the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic(middle), being escorted inside the prison in The Hague Keystone

Yugoslavia has asked Switzerland for legal assistance in tracking down funds belonging to the former president, Slobodan Milosevic. The request came shortly before Milosevic was extradited to the the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague where he will face charges of crimes against humanity.

This content was published on June 29, 2001 - 14:20

A spokesman for the Swiss justice ministry, Folco Galli, said the formal request was received on Wednesday - a day before Milosevic's deportation to a jail in The Hague.

He said further details would be disclosed on Monday. Until now there have been unconfirmed reports that Milosevic and his associates stashed up to $1 billion in accounts abroad before he was ousted from office last year.

The Swiss economics ministry said in March it was examining whether 170 kilogrammes of gold shipped from Yugoslavia last year could be linked to Milosevic.

The gold was refined in Switzerland, and the proceeds were sent to two companies in Greece and Cyprus, both believed to belong to Milosevic and his associates.

The Swiss authorities also froze $56 million(SFr100) in assets in banks a year ago, but unblocked most of the funds last November, saying there was no direct link with Milosevic.

In The Hague, the Swiss chief prosecutor at the international war crimes tribunal, Carla del Ponte, expressed hope that the extradition of Milosevic would serve as a warning to other fugitives.

"The arrest of Slobodan Milosevic," she said, "is a turning point that will lend renewed energy to the task of arresting those fugitives that are still at liberty."

She said on Thursday that Milosevic would appear in court on Monday or Tuesday. "We are preparing for the big task ahead," she said, but no date has been set for his trial.

Milosevic, who was indicted in May 1999, is expected to face charges of commiting crimes against humanity as a result of the mass killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Court officials said he might face other charges - including genocide - based on atrocities which took place during conflicts in the Balkans in the early 1990s.

The decision to send Milosevic to The Hague also came ahead of Friday's international conference aimed at raising over $1 billion in reconstruction money for Yugoslavia. The deportation of Milosevic was seen as key to raising funds.

swissinfo with agencies

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