Swiss hold off freezing more N.Africa, Gulf money

Mon Feb 21, 2011 3:16pm GMT
 

* Swiss government monitoring Libya, Bahrain closely * "Several dozens of million" francs seized from ex-leaders

ZURICH Feb 21 (Reuters) - The Swiss government has seized "several dozens of millions" francs held in Swiss banks by the deposed presidents of Egypt and Tunisia, but has not frozen assets of any current leaders in North Africa and the Gulf, officials said on Monday.

The government is monitoring unrest in Libya, Bahrain and other states in the region, said government spokesman Andrea Simonazzi.

"The government is following the situation very closely, but no decisions have been taken (on freezing further assets). The next government session is on Wednesday," he said.

"When the government decides to freeze assets, it is the work of the banks to identify these assets and announce them to the justice department so we know what they have found."

Earlier this month Switzerland, the world's biggest offshore banking centre, ordered a freeze of assets that might belong to Hosni Mubarak shortly after he stepped down as Egyptian president.

The Swiss foreign ministry said on Monday "several dozens of millions" held in Swiss banks by Mubarak and his entourage had been frozen along with "several dozens of millions" of francs held by deposed Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Violent protests against long-time Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have spread to the capital Tripoli, where dozens of people were reported killed overnight.

Swiss relations with Libya soured in 2008 when Geneva police arrested a son of Gaddafi on charges -- later dropped -- of abusing two domestic employees.

Libya withdrew millions of dollars from Swiss banks, halted oil exports to Switzerland and barred two Swiss businessmen working in Libya from leaving the country. (Reporting by Martin de Sa'Pinto; editing by David Stamp)

 
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