In the past fifteen years Switzerland has returned over CHF 1.7 billion misappropriated by politically exposed persons such as Sani Abacha, Ferdinand Marcos and Vladimiro Montesinos to the countries of origin. This was possible because of Switzerland’s good legal system, which is based on international legal assistance, and on it’s determination to prevent the Swiss financial centre becoming a safe haven for the assets of corrupt politicians. Consequently, Switzerland has assumed a leading role in this area.
However, experience has shown that this system reaches its limits when the failure of national legal systems means that States are unable to carry out national criminal proceedings, as happened in the Mobutu and Duvalier cases. In its ruling of 12 January 2010 on the Duvalier case, the Federal Court stated that the requirements for legal assistance in such cases were too strict and it called on the legislator to make the necessary adjustments and simplifications.
The Federal Council shares this view. Today it decided to submit a draft law on this subject to the two houses of parliament. The draft law covers the freezing, confiscation and restitution of the assets of politically exposed persons and their entourage when an international request for legal assistance in criminal matters can not be achieved due to a dysfunctional situation within the requesting State. In such cases, the draft law provides that the Federal Administrative Court can order the confiscation of frozen assets that have been illicitly acquired. The draft law states that the purpose of confiscating the assets is to improve the living conditions of the population in the country of origin by financing programmes of benefit to the general public. It is hoped that this new act can enter into force rapidly so that a solution to the issue of the Duvalier assets can be found as soon as possible.
Contact/questions: Information EDA, Tel. : +41 31 322 31 53
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