Mobutu assets to remain frozen awaiting outcome of complaints procedure

Bern, Press release, 30.04.2009

The Swiss government (Federal Council) was informed on 27 April 2009 of the lodging of a complaint with the Federal Criminal Court. This procedure was initiated by a private person in reaction to the decision of the Office of the Attorney General not to act upon the criminal complaint lodged in January 2009 with regard to the Mobutu assets. In order to give the Court sufficient time to consider the new complaint, the Federal Council has decided that the assets shall remain frozen until 31 October 2009, rather than as originally intended until 30 April 2009.

On 25 February 2009, the Federal Council decided to extend the freezing of the Mobutu assets until 30 April 2009 to enable the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) to have all the time it needed for a thorough examination of the case and the criminal complaint lodged by the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On 21 April 2009, the OAG decided, on the basis of the Statue of Limitations, not to launch an inquiry in Switzerland. 

Acting as a private person, Mark Pieth, professor of criminal law at the University of Basel, on 27 April 2009 lodged a complaint with the Appeals Chamber of the Federal Criminal Court (FCC) as the supervisory authority with regard to preliminary examinations in criminal cases that come under the jurisdiction of the OAG. 

The Federal Council, after being consulted in a round-about manner, felt the best policy would be to extend the measure freezing the assets to 31 October 2009 at the latest, so as to allow the FCC the time needed to consider the complaint of Professor Pieth. Without such an extension, and in the event of a positive outcome from this procedure, there was the risk that the frozen accounts would be emptied by the Mobutu heirs as of 1 May 2009. In acting thus the Federal Council avoids the possibility of the new complaint being rendered groundless. 

Further information: press office FDFA, phone +41 31 322 31 53


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