GENEVA (AP) — Authorities in Switzerland and Austria moved Friday to block any assets that Ukraine's fugitive president Viktor Yanukovych and his son Aleksander, might have hidden in the Alpine nations, while the Swiss launched a corruption investigation against them.
Switzerland's governing Federal Council, which includes the president and six other ministers, announced its decision to block all assets Yanukovych and his entourage might have in Switzerland, effective immediately.
Through the action, the council said in a statement that it "wishes to avoid any risk of misappropriation of Ukrainian state assets."
Austria said it is freezing any bank accounts it finds for Yanukovych, his son, and 16 others linked to Ukraine's former government.
Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Weiss says the move is meant to ensure that no money is withdrawn from their accounts pending an EU-wide decision on whether Yanukovych and his closest associates should be put under financial and other sanctions.
Weiss did not name all of those affected, and said he could not speculate on how many on the list of 18 had accounts in Austria and how much money was involved.
In a separate move, the Geneva prosecutors' office released a statement that it has opened a criminal investigation concerned with "aggravated money laundering." Documents were seized, but the prosecutor said no further details of the investigation would be provided.
Switzerland has been at pains to prevent foreign leaders from using the country's secretive banks as places to hide and launder ill-gotten funds.
In recent years, Swiss authorities have frozen accounts linked to former members of the deposed governments in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
Associated Press writers George Jahn in Vienna and Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.