The Haitian authorities accuse former President Jean-Claude Duvalier of having plundered state coffers, with the help of members of his entourage, from the time he took office in 1971 until 1986, when he fled the country. The misappropriated funds, of several hundred million US dollars, are alleged to have been invested abroad. In its ruling, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice held that the Duvalier clan acted in the same way as a criminal organisation, as defined in Art. 260ter of the Swiss Penal Code (Strafgesetzbuch). As such, the case fulfils the dual criminality condition that applies to the provision of legal assistance in criminal matters. Furthermore, the seizure provisions of the Penal Code also apply according to the legal precedent set by the Federal Supreme Court in the Abacha case. This reverses the burden of proof. As the statements submitted by the account holders failed to provide any evidence or explanation of the lawful origin of the approx. CHF 7 million in assets that were frozen in Switzerland, the Federal Office of Justice has ordered that these assets be handed over to Haiti.
Destined for social or humanitarian projects
The Federal Office of Justice ruled that the assets that are being handed over to Haiti are to be used for social or humanitarian projects to benefit the Haitian population. Non-governmental organisations with the relevant experience in these fields are also to be considered for funding. The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs has already made contact with interested organisations, and will monitor the implementation of the projects, as well as the transparent use of funds, locally via the Swiss mission in Port-au-Prince.
Ruling not yet final and absolute
The Duvalier funds will remain in Switzerland for the time being, as the Federal Office of Justice ruling is not yet final and absolute. The individuals concerned may lodge an appeal with the Swiss Federal Criminal Court within 30 days.
For the complete documentation see the pages in German, French or Italian
Last modification 12.02.2009