Frozen assets should go to rebuild Haiti: Duvalier

2nd February 2011, Comments 0 comments

Haitian ex-dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier said Tuesday he never had his personal funds frozen during his 25 years in exile, and called for assets frozen by Switzerland to be used to rebuild Haiti.

In an interview with Spanish-language broadcaster Univision, Duvalier said funds frozen by a Swiss law that took effect Tuesday were not his.

"In 25 years (in exile), I have never had any accounts frozen, in Switzerland or anywhere," Duvalier maintained, speaking in French, which was simultaneously translated into Spanish.

Switzerland blocked millions under legislation aimed at easing the return of the Haitian funds to the impoverished Caribbean country. Dubbed the "Duvalier law," the legislation was rushed through parliament last year to ease restitution of assets stolen by corrupt politicians to their home countries.

It was partly prompted by the 25-year legal battle between Swiss authorities and the Duvalier family over some $5.7 million of allegedly embezzled funds.

Those assets have been frozen temporarily in a Swiss bank since Duvalier was ousted.

Duvalier said they belonged to a foundation and not to him.

"As soon as they release those funds, most of them will be used to rebuild the city of my mother's birth," Duvalier told Univision in an advance release of part of the interview to be broadcast in full later Tuesday.

Haitian authorities say the funds are part of more than $100 million allegedly embezzled from charities and social spending before the younger Duvalier's regime collapsed. In 1971, Baby Doc succeeded his father, Francois Duvalier, known as 'Papa Doc,' who became president in 1957.

Within 48 hours of the younger Duvalier's unexpected return to Haiti last month, government prosecutors slapped him with a slew of charges, many related to the alleged siphoning off of millions of dollars during his 15-year rule.

Six private lawsuits have also been filed against the 59-year-old former strongman over alleged human rights violations and torture, and judicial officials expect more complaints to follow. He was released after being charged.

© 2011 AFP

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