Bounty hunter on the trail of Arab Spring loot

Thu May 24, 2012 8:56am EDT
 
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By Martin de Sa'Pinto

GENEVA (Reuters) - Growing up in Africa, he used to hunt buffalo, a passion that still serves Geneva-based lawyer Enrico Monfrini well. His dogged pursuit of ill-gotten assets has made him the scourge of many of the world's dictators and kleptocrats.

An affable man with a sharp wit and a ready smile, the 67-year-old blends easily into a city of sprucely-dressed asset managers, bankers and lawyers, though his chosen calling would likely surprise many of them.

Working from an austere legal practice in central Geneva which belies its global reach, Monfrini has made his mark as a bounty hunter. In light of the Arab Spring, the available bounty may just have got a whole lot bigger.

Monfrini told Reuters in an interview he was already working on finding the assets of Tunisia's former ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali: "We're on a good track for finding some of the money."

Tunisian justice minister Nourredine Bouheiri said this week Ben Ali and his entourage were believed to have stashed billions of dollars in accounts around the world.

Since the start of the Arab Spring, Switzerland, the United States, Britain and others, have frozen several billion dollars belonging to regional strongmen and former leaders.

Like Irving Picard, the lawyer seeking fraudster Bernard Madoff's hidden assets, Monfrini is officially appointed to track down assets seized by former dictators like Haiti's Babydoc Duvalier and their cronies.

While Monfrini is watching developments in Libya, Syria and elsewhere, his firm Monfrini Crettol Partners refrains from working for governments whose legitimacy is in doubt and where corruption may still be widespread.   Continued...