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Swiss to Assist Argentine Probe

November 09, 2002|From Reuters

GENEVA — Switzerland will help Argentina probe allegations that former President Carlos Menem covered up an alleged Iranian role in a deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish center, Swiss officials said Friday.

Argentina asked Switzerland in December 2001 to help investigate claims that Menem took a $10-billion bribe to conceal alleged Iranian links to the Buenos Aires car-bomb attack that killed 86 people.

Menem, a candidate in presidential elections set for March, denies the allegations. He has said he plans to sue the New York Times, which originally published the allegations, and the former Iranian intelligence agent the newspaper quoted as saying that Iran was responsible for the bombing and had paid Menem to cover it up.

Swiss authorities previously rejected Argentina's requests as vague, but Geneva investigating Judge Christine Junod has now granted judicial assistance. That means she can lift bank secrecy rules to investigate and, if necessary, freeze accounts.

Junod said: "Argentina has alleged that Menem received money to orient the investigation in a certain way. I will now be able to collect information, sort it and send on any pertinent details to Argentina."

Argentina is also investigating Menem and others in connection with suspected illegal arms sales in the early 1990s to Croatia and Ecuador, alleging that bribes went to Swiss bank accounts.

Junod confirmed Friday that $10 million remained frozen in Swiss accounts in connection with a related inquiry already underway in Geneva.

The accounts were frozen a year ago, but the judge has not yet agreed to grant Argentina judicial cooperation in the matter.

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