GENEVA – Switzerland ordered the immediate freeze Thursday of any Swiss assets belonging to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi or his entourage, saying it wanted to prevent the possible misuse of state funds.
The Swiss government said it took the decision "in view of the developments" in Libya, where security forces have launched a violent crackdown against anti-government protesters.
Switzerland recently froze the Swiss assets of Tunisia's Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak — but only after they had been deposed.
The latest asset freeze comes as Gadhafi still clings to power in the face of growing international pressure to halt his forces' attempts to suppress anti-government protests that have spread to large parts of the country.
It is unclear if Gadhafi, his family or senior Libyan officials have any assets in Switzerland anymore. Libya withdrew almost $6 billion from Swiss banks in 2008 after the two countries became embroiled in a spat over the arrest of Gadhafi's son Hannibal in a Geneva hotel.
The withdrawal of the funds illustrates the blurred lines between Gadhafi's personal assets and those belonging to the Libyan state.
Libya's sovereign wealth fund is worth about $70 billion thanks to the country's oil and gas wealth. But much of that money is controlled by Gadhafi and his family who are believed to have investments throughout Europe, including in Italy, Britain and the Netherlands.