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Swiss seek to confiscate $140 million linked to ex-Ukraine President Yanukovich

FILE PHOTO: Viktor Yanukovich, the former president of Ukraine who was ousted by street protests and fled to Russia in 2014, arrives to attend a news conference in Moscow, Russia February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

Switzerland has launched proceedings to confiscate more than 130 million Swiss francs ($140.89 million) linked to the entourage of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich who was deposed in 2014.

The Swiss government has initiated proceedings with the Federal Administrative Court to seize money presumed to be of "illicit origin", Bern said in a statement.

The people involved were linked to Yanukovich, who fled to Russia after being ousted by mass protests in 2014.

Switzerland last year began looking into confiscating 100 million Swiss francs after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but raised the targeted amount to 130 million francs following further deliberations.

The assets will remain frozen pending a final decision by the Federal Administrative Court, the government said, adding that any assets that are seized will be returned to the Ukrainian people under an international agreement.

Switzerland said the confiscation of assets only applied in exceptional circumstances, such as when a foreign state had previously attempted to confiscate the assets but had been unable to do so.

Yanukovich's Swiss-based assets were frozen in 2014, and Ukraine had asked for help recovering them, although its efforts had been made more difficult by the war.

The assets "were the subject of criminal proceedings in Ukraine and mutual assistance procedures initiated by Ukraine," the government said.

"The purpose of the proceedings is to determine in the specific circumstances concerned whether the assets are of illicit origin and can therefore be confiscated."

Switzerland said the measure was unrelated to the sanctions list which applies to 1,386 Russian nationals imposed since the Russian invasion in February 2022.

($1 = 0.9227 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Mike Harrison)

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