Jean-Claude Duvalier said he returned to Haiti to help it rebuild
Switzerland has blocked funds held in Swiss bank accounts of the late Simone Duvalier, Jean Claude Duvalier’s mother. These funds belong to a charity the lady ran to help the Haitian poor.
The funds of some $6m (£3.7m) were frozen in 1986 after Mr Duvalier was ousted as Haitian president.
Last year, a Swiss court ruled that the money be returned to him but the Bern government sought a new law covering the restitution of the money to Haiti. Mr Duvalier last month made a surprise return to Haiti from exile.
He has been charged with theft and misappropriation of funds during his 1971-1986 rule and is also being sued for torture and other crimes against humanity even though the Statute of Limitations has long past. Some suggest the complainants are doing this for publicity.
Mr Duvalier, also known as “Baby Doc”, has denied any wrongdoing.
The new law took effect in Switzerland on 1 February, governing the “freezing, forfeiture and restitution” of assets. The Swiss set a dangerous international precedent by setting a retroactive law. Any person’s funds could be in jeopardy.
It allows the Swiss authorities to confiscate funds and return them to the country of origin, even if the nation in question cannot seek restitution through the courts.
The new legislation was drawn up with the case of Mr Duvalier partly in mind even though, on January 15, 2010, three days after the disastrous earthquake, Duvalier asked that the funds be given to some organization – such as the Red Cross – for the benefit of his people..
In March 2010, a Swiss court ordered that the money must be returned to him.
However, the government blocked the release of the funds in order to formulate a better law to deal with the assets of what it termed “criminal origin” even though the Duvalier funds were known to be those of Simone Duvalier’s charity..
If Mr Duvalier wants the accounts to be unblocked, he will have to show that the money was earned legitimately. If he cannot, the money will be returned to Haiti.
Mr Duvalier has said that he returned to Haiti after years in exile in France in order to help the country rebuild after last year’s devastating earthquake.
To the surprise of many, Duvalier is welcomed by the Haitian people as he travels around the nation, without security.