Since 1986 Switzerland has worked to ensure that assets illicitly acquired by politically exposed persons – often referred to as dictators’ assets – are returned to the countries to which they belong. Once such assets have been frozen by the authorities of the country where they are located, it is possible for the respective country of origin to request mutual legal assistance for their recovery. The aim of such mutual legal assistance is to identify the assets in question, to return them to their rightful owners, and to make certain that they are used for the benefit of the people of the country and not once again for corrupt purposes.
Experience has shown that close cooperation between the countries involved – particularly at the judicial level, that is at the stage of mutual legal assistance – is of vital importance for the successful restitution of such funds. The international expert meetings organised by Switzerland and held annually in Lausanne since 2001 (the Lausanne Seminars) are intended to help strengthen international cooperation and coordination between states.
At the ‘Lausanne VIII’ seminar (2014), in keeping with mandates conferred in 2013 by the UN General Assembly and the Conference of the States Parties to the Convention against Corruption (COSP), a set of guidelines for simplifying cooperation between authorities on matters of mutual legal assistance was drafted. The mandates were extended by the COSP and the UN General Assembly in 2015 and 2016, respectively, for the purpose of supplementing those guidelines with a step-by-step guide to the procedural steps to be taken by the countries concerned in a case involving politically exposed persons’ assets. The guide will be made available to the international asset recovery community and is intended to serve as a global working instrument explaining in comprehensible terms what must be done at which stage of the restitution process. The first part of the guide was drafted at the ‘Lausanne IX’ seminar (2016), and it was completed this year. The step-by-step guide is scheduled to be presented to the international community in November 2017, at the COSP to be held in Vienna.
The Lausanne Seminars were first launched in 2001 by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and are organised in close collaboration with the International Centre for Asset Recovery (ICAR) of the Basel Institute on Governance and with the support of the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) initiative of the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The purpose of the Lausanne Seminars is to foster dialogue and the exchange of expertise on cases involving the recovery of stolen assets.
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