The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit that seeks to recoup more than $7 million in illegal drug proceeds from Swiss American Bank Ltd. of Antigua.

The federal government has been trying since 1994 to seize the money, which was deposited at the bank on the Caribbean island of Antigua by a convicted money launderer, the U.S. attorney's office in Boston said.

John E. Fitzgerald laundered the money for a New England marijuana smuggling ring-which was run by brothers Joseph and Michael Murray-through several accounts at the bank in the late 1980s, the U.S. attorney said.

Between December 1994 and January 1995, Swiss American handed $5 million of the proceeds to the Antiguan government and transferred more than $2 million to its own accounts, federal prosecutors charged in the lawsuit filed in federal district court in Boston late last month.

Both the bank and the Antiguan government have refused to return the money, the U.S. attorney said.

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