The Swiss government has imposed a three-year freeze on bank assets valued at 830-million Swiss Francs (almost $1-billion) which are linked to Moammar Gaddafi of Libya, Hosni Mubarak, the former leader of Egypt and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the deposed ruler of Tunisia.
Switzerland’s president and foreign minister Micheline Calmy said the assets include 360-million Swiss francs that likely belong to Gaddafi; 410-million Swiss francs linked to Mubarak, and 60-million Swiss francs connected to Ben Ali.
The Swiss actually froze the assets months ago, but only are revealing their size.
These amounts are frozen in Switzerland following blocking orders by the Swiss government related to potentially illegal assets in Switzerland, she said.
It is not just money, there are real estate assets.”
The new governments of Tunisia and Egypt have already commenced a legal endeavor to claim the assets. However, Swiss officials said that neither country has yet proven that the assets were acquired through illegal means. The money will be held for three years until Swiss authorities can determine whether or not the North African committed criminal acts to obtain the money, thereby allowing the return of the funds to the current governments.
Nonetheless, Switzerland ordered all banks and other financial institutions to freeze assets belonging to the three dictators and their principal allies to prevent any such funds from being secretly withdrawn.
The Swiss government is eager to remove the label that it is a haven for ill-gotten gains by foreign despots because of its rules governing bank secrecy.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.