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Wednesday, June 23, 1999 Published at 18:11 GMT 19:11 UK

World: Europe

Switzerland moves against Milosevic

Slobodan Milosevic: assets cannot be transferred out of Switzerland

The Swiss government has announced that it will freeze any assets of the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, and four other Yugoslav officials charged with war crimes.

Kosovo: Special Report
The move follows a request from the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague for Switzerland to provide legal assistance in its prosecution - including the freezing of assets.

It is not known whether President Milosevic or the four other individuals charged with war crimes actually had any funds in Switzerland, or how much those funds might amount to.

Switzerland's federal police office described the asset-freezing as a precautionary measure, probably intended to ensure that no funds leave the country now that the Swiss authorities are investigating.

The order requires all Swiss financial institutions holding assets belonging to these men to declare them immediately to the Swiss authorities or face prosecution: transfer of funds is expressedly forbidden.

Swiss co-operation

The Swiss government has been criticised in the past for acting too slowly in freezing the accounts of other disgraced leaders such as the late President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos.

[ image: General Dragoljub Ojdanic's assets have also been frozen]
General Dragoljub Ojdanic's assets have also been frozen
The BBC's Economics Correspondent Andrew Walker says there is every chance that Mr Milosevic, the Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, the Yugoslav deputy Prime Minister, the Serbian Interior Minister and the Yugoslav armed forces Chief of Staff have some private money hidden away somewhere.

There have long been rumours that Yugoslav leaders have been depositing money in Switzerland.

However, Switzerland is not as attractive a place for people seeking to hide money as it used to be, as banking secrecy has been significantly watered down.

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Internet Links

Swiss Banking Institute

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