Conflict & Justice

Swiss banks holding $1 billion in assets of Gaddafi and Co.


People walk on February 8, 2011 in front of the headquarters of Swiss bank UBS in Zurich. .


Sebastian Derungs

Swiss banks are reportedly holding almost $1 billion in assets of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and the former presidents of Egypt and Tunisia.

Swiss president and foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, speaking in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, said the assets include $416 million that may belong to Gaddafi or his entourage, while $474 million had been linked to the former Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, and $69 million to Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Associated Press reports.

"These amounts are frozen in Switzerland following blocking orders by the Swiss government related to potentially illegal assets in Switzerland," Calmy-Rey said, the BBC reported. "It is not just money, there are real estate assets."

Switzerland has been trying to combat the reputation of being a haven for stolen assets of autocrats. Last year it passed a new law to give the government power to seize and repatriate stolen assets.

The Swiss finance department has also asked a court to authorize seizure of millions of dollars frozen in accounts belonging to former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, the AP reports.

And earlier this year, it froze funds tied to Laurent Gbabgo, the former president of Ivory Coast who refused to cede power and finally was captured.

Bern has ordered banks and other financial institutions to freeze possible assets belonging to the three men to prevent the funds from being secretly withdrawn.

The Swiss government has said Tunisia and Egypt have already started legal proceedings to claim the assets, although it reportedly said neither country had yet given enough evidence that the money had been obtained illegally for Switzerland to release it.