Over the past 15 years, Switzerland has returned more than CHF 1.7 billion to countries that have been plundered by politically exposed persons such as Sani Abacha, Ferdinand Marcos and Vladimiro Montesinos. This situation is a result both of the quality of the set of legal instruments based on international assistance at its disposal and the political will to prevent Switzerland from becoming a safe haven for the proceeds of the illegal activities of corrupt officials. Switzerland now leads the world in restoring plundered assets to the countries of origin concerned.
Switzerland’s experience in this field has however revealed limitations in the system whenever the states concerned are unable to conduct national criminal procedures, as was the case with the Mobutu and Duvalier assets. Moreover, in its decision on the Duvalier assets of 12 January 2010, the Federal Supreme Court considered that the conditions set by international assistance “seemed to be too strict for this kind of matter” and called on Parliament to make the necessary corrections and simplifications.
In order to meet these demands, the Federal Council has submitted the draft Federal Act on the restitution of assets of illicit origin to a consultation procedure. The procedure will end on 16 April 2010. It will then be up to Parliament to make its decision. It is hoped that the Act will enter into force rapidly so that the case of the Duvalier assets can be resolved as quickly as possible. In the intervening period, the Duvalier assets remain blocked in conformity with the Federal Council’s decision of 3 February 2010.
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