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Swiss freeze 'Baby Doc' nest egg

Feb. 4, 2010 at 6:00 PM   |   Comments

ZURICH, Switzerland, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Switzerland has frozen at least $4.6 million held in Swiss banks to keep it from the family of deposed Haitian leader Jean-Claude Duvalier, officials say.

Switzerland's Supreme Court decided Jan. 11, the day before a powerful earthquake leveled Port-au-Prince, Haiti, that a lower court had arrived at an incorrect decision that would have sent the money to aid organizations in Haiti. However, the high court's ruling wasn't disclosed until Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The Haitian government has been trying to recover the money since 1986, contending Duvalier, known as "Baby Doc," had stolen the public's money before being overthrown as leader of Haiti.

Duvalier, now 58, had run the country since 1971 when, at age 19, he took over after the death of his father Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, who had ruled the Caribbean island nation since 1957.

The Journal reported Duvalier is believed to be living in exile in France and his lawyer in Geneva, Switzerland, Guy Reber, couldn't be reached for comment.

The newspaper said the Swiss government immediately froze the accounts Wednesday and Swiss officials were trying to expedite legislation that could be applied retroactively to facilitate the money's return to the government of Haiti.

"We assume that this money doesn't belong to the Duvalier family," said Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf. "We have blocked the money again today to prevent it from going somewhere that it shouldn't for political reasons. We hope this money finally goes back to the country."

© 2010 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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