Swiss open money-laundering case for Ivory Coast govt


Switzerland has opened a money-laundering investigation following a criminal complaint lodged by the Ivory Coast government of President Alassane Ouattara, said Swiss officials.

“The investigation is at its initial stage and the Swiss attorney-general does not wish to comment further,” spokeswoman Jeannette Balmer said in an email response to a Reuters query. She declined to say against whom the investigation was targeted.

However, the Swiss news agency ATS reported that Geneva lawyer Bruno de Preux had lodged the money-laundering complaint on behalf of Ouattara’s government against former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, his wife and close associates, Reuters reports.

A dispute over who won a November 2010 presidential election provoked conflict between pro-Ouattara and pro-Gbagbo forces that killed thousands of people and displaced more than a million. Violence eased last month with Gbagbo’s arrest, and Ouattara took his presidential oath last Friday.
“The complaint was lodged against Mr Gbagbo, his wife and a whole series of former Ivorian civil servants and ministers,” ATS quoted de Preux as saying.

De Preux was not immediately available for comment.

Switzerland revealed last week it had frozen 70 million Swiss francs linked to Gbago and his associates.

The Swiss cabinet had ordered his assets be seized in January to prevent them being diverted before Ivory Coast could launch domestic criminal proceedings, the foreign ministry said.

The funds are blocked for up to three years under the Swiss cabinet’s order, pending a request from the Ivory Coast for legal assistance, which must be on the basis of its own criminal proceedings against Gbagbo. The Ivory Coast has yet to file such a request for judicial assistance, Swiss officials said.

Ouattara’s government said on April 27 that it had begun criminal investigations against Gbagbo, his wife and 100 people in his close circle, but gave no details.