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New Swiss law mandates return of stolen money within weeks– Official

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Relief may be underway for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and other African countries where several loots were kept in Swiss banks as a newly passed law in Switzerland has made it impossible for looted funds to stay longer than necessary.

Switzerland has reportedly seized and repatriated almost $2 billion of the illicit money stashed in Swiss banks by foreign dictators, according to a report by the website Swissinfo, citing an official.

The report noted that ever since the Marcos (Philippines) affair in 1986, the list of illicit potentate funds that have been seized in Swiss banks and later returned to the country has steadily grown to include Montesinos (Peru), Mobutu (former Zaire), Dos Santos (Angola), Abacha (Nigeria), Kazakhstan, Salinas (Mexico), Duvalier (Haiti), Ben Ali (Tunisia), and Mubarak (Egypt).

The report noted that the return of CHF321 million stolen by the family of Nigeria’s former dictator, the Late Sani Abacha and confiscated by Switzerland is also continuing, adding that, Switzerland and Nigeria have signed a letter of intent aimed at the quick and equitable restitution of the money

The report indicated that the government has also blocked about $570 million in the case of Egypt, $60 million in the case of Tunisia and about $70 million regarding Ukraine. The Tunisian assets are set to remain frozen until January 18, 2017, and the others until February 2017. The government will review next year whether to extend the asset freezes. Balzaretti said this was likely, the report pointed out.

According to the report, a new law in Switzerland made the seizure and repatriation of the funds held in the country’s banks by foreign dictators, mostly African leaders possible.

It notes that over the past 30 years Switzerland has returned almost CHF2 billion ($2 billion) misappropriated and deposited in Swiss banks by “politically exposed persons”.

The Tax Justice Network, an organisation concerned with tax havens and tax evasion, ranked Switzerland number one out of 92 territories, in its 2015 Financial Secrecy Index which ranks jurisdictions according to their propensity to facilitate huge illicit financial flows.

Switzerland, leads the ranking with 73 per cent, maintaining the popular perception of Swiss banks as the most financially secretive and the most preferred destination for capital flight.

An estimated $21 to $32 trillion of untaxed or lightly taxed private financial wealth is located in tax havens around the world that use secrecy to attract illicit financial flows.

“This is more than all other financial centres in world by far,” Roberto Balzaretti, the new head of the public international law directorate at the Swiss foreign ministry, was quoted as saying.

A number of cases are ongoing, it said, adding that in December 2015, the Swiss federal administrative court confirmed the blocking of CHF4.5 million placed in a Geneva bank by a former cabinet minister of deposed Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.


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