Jean-Claude Duvalier was the Head of State of Haiti from 1971, when he was appointed “President for life” by his father François Duvalier who had ruled Haiti since 1957, until 1986, when he fled the country following a popular uprising. The Duvalier regime was characterized by the systematic plundering of the public coffers and gross human rights violation. In 1986, Haiti initiated worldwide recovery proceedings, which were interrupted by a series of military coups. In 2008, Haiti revived the mutual assistance proceedings in ||Switzerland||, where USD 6 million were frozen since 1986.
12 February 2009
Press release of the Federal Office of Justice, announcing that the assets of Jean-Claude Duvalier frozen in Switzerland were to be handed over to Haiti, as the lawful origin of the assets, worth some 7 million Swiss francs, could not be proven by the account holders.
12 August 2009
In a decision RR.2009.94 (in French), the Chamber of Complaints of the Federal Criminal Court, applying the Abacha precedent (7 February 2005 decision 1A.215/2004 of the Federal Court in the ||Abacha Case||) ruled that: the Duvalier regime, having committed gross human rights violation and systematic misappropriation of public funds, constituted a criminal organization in the definition of Swiss criminal law; consequently, the burden of the proof regarding the criminal origin of the assets beneficially owned by its members was reversed; as the account holders had not demonstrated the legal origin of the assets, those were deemed to be of criminal origin and could be returned to Haiti.
12 January 2010
In a decision 1C_374/2009 (in French), the Federal Court confirmed that the Duvalier regime constituted a criminal organization and that in principle, the frozen assets could be returned to Haiti. However, the Federal Court deemed that the prosecution of such crimes, had they occurred in Switzerland, would have been statute-barred, and that, consequently, mutual assistance could no longer be granted to Haiti, and the freeze over the Duvalier assets had to be lifted.
3 February 2010
The Swiss Federal Council announced in a press release that it had decided to continue the freeze on the Duvalier assets on the basis of the Federal Constitution and to open a consultation procedure to consider a draft law governing the confiscation of illicit assets.
28 April 2010
Dispatch (in French; English translation here) of the Swiss Federal Council to parliament of a draft Federal Act on the Restitution of Assets of Politically Exposed Persons obtained by Unlawful Means (RIAA).
10 October 2010
Federal Act on the Restitution of Assets of Politically Exposed Persons obtained by Unlawful Means (RIAA) of 10 October 2010 (in French; English tranlation here), entered into force on 1 February 2011.
2 February 2011
Press release of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs announcing that the Federal Council has asked the Federal Department of Finance to initiate proceedings before the Federal Administrative Court for the forfeiture of the Duvalier funds frozen in Switzerland, based on the Federal Act on the Restitution of Assets of Politically Exposed Persons obtained by Unlawful Means (RIAA).
Click here for the page of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs dedicated to illicit assets of politically exposed persons (PEPs), which containing links to the relevant laws and material.
See also the Star Asset Recovery Watch, a compilation of corruption recovery cases by the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Initiative, a joint program of the World Bank Group and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
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