The Federal Council proposes a new law on the restitution of assets of illicit origin

Bern, Press release, 24.02.2010

In the context of the prolongation of the freeze on the Duvalier assets, which the Federal Council decided on 3 February 2010, today the Federal Council has decided to submit the draft Federal Act on the restitution of assets of illicit origin to a consultation procedure. The Duvalier assets could be first case to which the law would apply once it enters into force. For this to happen however it must first be passed by Parliament. With this draft law, Switzerland confirms its leading position worldwide in the restitution of assets of illicit origin.

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.

Further information:

Dictators' assets (potentate funds)
Bill of law (de)

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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs