Court upholds seizure of Duvalier's Swiss assets
A Swiss court confirmed on Wednesday the confiscation of millions of dollars in frozen bank accounts belonging to former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, clearing the way for the money to be returned to Haiti.
The Swiss Federal Administrative Court upheld a bid by Bern to confiscate more than $5 million (four million euros) in Swiss accounts opened by Duvalier and his entourage during his 15 years in power.
The legal case to return the money to Haiti was "valid because the assets in question had been obtained illicitly," the appeals court said in a statement, noting that "the level of corruption (in Haiti) was notoriously high" during the Duvalier years.
The restitution procedure can now begin, it added.
Duvalier and his followers are accused of plundering hundreds of millions of dollars of state funds during his reign, which ended when he was toppled in 1986.
Ever since, a number of Swiss accounts have remained frozen, leading to a protracted court battle with the holders.
The Swiss government ordered in 2002 that the freeze on Duvalier's assets be maintained, and the finance ministry moved two years ago to confiscate the money and return it to Haiti.
Swiss officials have said they want the money to be used for projects to tackle poverty in the island nation.
The court had earlier this week rejected moves by the former dictator's entourage to get the freeze lifted, ruling that it "was necessary to preserve Swiss interests".
Duvalier, who returned to Haiti from his exile in France two years ago, still has the option of appealing both rulings to Switzerland's supreme court.