Ivory Coast: Swiss freeze Gbagbo funds

19th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Switzerland decided Wednesday to block any funds held in the country by Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo, Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said.

The government "has decided to block any possible funds of Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo ... with immediate effect," said Calmy-Rey, who is also serving as Swiss president this year.

With the move, the government is preventing Switzerland's financial centre from serving as a refuge for any possible "illegally-obtained assets owned by Gbagbo" and his entourage, added Swiss authorities in a statement.

The freeze would last three years.

The European Union and the United States have also decided to block Gbagbo's assets.

It was therefore "important that Switzerland came quickly to a decision" to prevent any funds from being transferred to Switzerland as a result of the EU's sanction that came into effect on January 15, said Calmy-Rey.

Ivory Coast has been locked in a political standoff after Gbagbo refused to step down following presidential elections, despite a vote which the Independent Electoral Commission, UN and most of the world said his rival Alassane Ouattara won.

Switzerland has also recognised Ouattara as having won the elections.

Calmy-Rey described Berne's move as a "preventive and precautionary" measure to stop Gbagbo or his entourage from transferring any public assets out of the country amid the political standoff.

She noted that the freeze had been ordered as "there is a risk that public assets could be turned into gains" and pocketed privately.

And it was not realistic to await official requests from Ivory Coast before freezing the assets because "the person and his entourage is still in government," the minister added.

© 2011 AFP

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