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Swiss Court Denies ‘Baby Doc’ Dictator’s Appeal on Frozen Assets

Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) -- A Swiss court rejected an appeal by Jean-Claude Duvalier, ruler of Haiti from 1971 to 1986, who earlier challenged the Swiss government’s 2002 decision to freeze his assets.

The Federal Administrative Court ruled against Duvalier and his fellow plaintiffs, who objected to the forfeiture of 5 million Swiss francs ($5.5 million) of the ex-dictator’s assets, according to a statement published today on the St. Gallen, Switzerland-based court’s website.

The 2002 freezing order and subsequent forfeiture proceedings were valid “to preserve Swiss interests” because the assets stashed in Swiss banks were obtained “illicitly,” according to the statement.

“Jean-Claude Duvalier and his entourage did not demonstrate that the increase in their assets had resulted from activities unrelated to their role as public officials,” the court said in the statement. “The level of corruption of the Haitian state was notoriously high during the period in which they had held public office.”

Duvalier, commonly called “Baby Doc,” succeeded his late father, Francois Duvalier, known as “Papa Doc,” to the presidency of Haiti. He returned to the Caribbean country in 2011 after a 25-year-exile. The Duvaliers oversaw the killings of 20,000 to 30,000 civilians, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Barring a possible appeal to Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court, the frozen assets may be repatriated to Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, which suffered an earthquake in 2010 that killed about 200,000 people.

Switzerland introduced legislation two years ago to enable countries to obtain the restitution of funds banked offshore by despotic former rulers, without producing a domestic court conviction. The initiative was nicknamed the “Duvalier Law.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Giles Broom in Geneva at gbroom@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net

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