Duvalier Petitions Courts to Return Funds
Shantella Y. Sherman | 12/16/2009, 9:29 p.m.
Nearly 25 years after Haitian president Jean-Claude Duvalier was forced from power in Haiti, taking asylum in France, he has petitioned a court in Lausanne, Switzerland to have 7m Swiss francs ($6.7 million) that frozen in a Swiss bank account since 1986, released to him. Haiti€s government has requested a €mutual legal assistance proceeding€, asking the Swiss to confiscate the assets €" and the drawn-out process should reach its final stage before Christmas, in the Swiss Supreme Court.
Duvalier and his ex-wife Michelle, during their wedding ceremony in 1980. The lavish nuptials spawned international criticism from world leaders, who had been providing humanitarian aid for years. Courtesy Photo
Valentin Zellweger, Switzerland€s Directorate of Public International Law said that their offices have followed the case for years, with the cooperation of Haiti.
According to court records, the Duvalier family assets were held in a company called the Brouilly Foundation €" a Panama-based company, which was founded by Duvalier€s mother, Simone Ovide Duvalier, and is owned by members of the Duvalier family.
Jean-Claude Duvalier, former €President for Life€ of Haiti, recently appealed to the high courts of Switzerland to release more than $50 million of his funds frozen nearly twenty years ago after he fled Haiti. It was believed that the funds were absconded from the national treasury of Haiti. Courtesy Photo
Between 1971 and 1986, Duvalier and his ex-wife Michele Bennett Duvalier, are believed to have appropriated roughly $540M from the Haitian public treasury, most of it from relief money given to Haiti by international aid organizations and foreign governments. Duvalier originally assumed the presidency at age 19, following the death of his father, Francois, who had ruled the country since 1957.
It is unclear whether the funds belong to the Duvalier family or the nation, though previous attempts to recover monies from three additional Duvalier accounts, found ownership to be inconclusive, allowing the family to retain ownership.
The Duvaliers could take the case to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg, should they lose this round of legal wrangling; the Swiss legal process would allow the funds to be released immediately to the family. Duvalier now resides in exile in France.