The Miami Herald
October 9, 2001

Menem's Swiss account blocked

 GENEVA -- (AP) -- A Geneva judge said Monday that he had blocked a bank account belonging to former President Carlos Menem of Argentina. It was the first time an account in Menem's name had been located outside Argentina, according to Argentine authorities investigating arms smuggling.

 Investigating Magistrate Claude-Francois Wenger said he had blocked the account and another one belonging to a company in connection with an Argentine investigation into allegations that Menem had led a group selling arms in defiance of U.N. embargoes.

 ``I am now waiting for more details about the accounts to ascertain the origin of the money,'' Wenger said. ``According to the results of my investigation, I will then decide whether to transmit the information to Argentina.''

 The account, opened by Menem ``before 1990,'' was also in the name of Menem's former wife, Zulema Yoma, and his daughter, Zulema Maria Eva, Wenger said.

 Menem has been under house arrest since June 7 on charges that he headed a small group of former government officials who allegedly diverted weapons to Croatia and Ecuador.

 The more than 6,500 tons of weapons had been officially destined for Panama and Venezuela.

 The shipments of cannons and gunpowder, which totaled more than $100 million, wound up in Croatia in 1991 and Ecuador in 1995 despite international arms embargoes. The U.N. embargo against Ecuador was a result of its brief border war with Peru in the 1990s, while the embargo against Croatia stemmed from fighting in the former Yugoslavia.

 The former president has denied the charges. He said the sales of weapons were legally carried out and that the executive decrees he signed do not provide legal grounds for a trial. But Argentine investigators say they are probing whether Menem and his inner circle profited from the sale.

                                    © 2001