Switzerland is forced to unfreeze Mobutu assets

Bern, Press release, 16.07.2009

On 14 July 2009, the Federal Criminal Court rejected a complaint regarding the Mobutu assets. In these circumstances and in accordance with the Federal Council decision of 30 April 2009, there is no alternative but to end the freezing of these assets. The FDFA has informed the banks and the parties concerned. The FDFA deplores this outcome, which ends twelve years of freezing of the assets in which all options to come to a fair solution were attempted. This case underlines the need to adapt the Swiss legal framework.

On 30 April 2009 the Federal Council decided to prolong the freezing of the Mobutu assets "until the supervisory authority has ruled on the complaint it has received but at the latest until 30 October 2009".  

On 14 July 2009 the Federal Criminal Court decided not to proceed with the complaint. In accordance with the Federal Council decision of 30 April 2009, the freezing of the funds has now come to an end. The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) informed the banks and the parties concerned through their lawyers on 15 July 2009. The FDFA deplores this result, which marks the end of twelve years of freezing of the assets in which all conceivable solutions were attempted. Since 1997 the Confederation has gone to considerable lengths to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion. In accordance with the mandate it received from the Federal Council, the FDFA assisted the parties concerned in an effort to reach as satisfactory a conclusion as possible. However, the lack of support over a long period from the Congolese authorities, together with the inflexibility of the Mobutu heirs, meant that it was not possible to reach an agreement.   

The requirement finally to restitute the Mobutu assets which have been frozen since 1997 underlines the need to adapt the Swiss legal framework to prevent cases of this type from recurring. This is why the Federal Council mandated the FDFA on 5°December 2008 to draft a law making it possible to confiscate and to return the illicit assets of politically exposed persons. This legislation is now being drafted and a draft bill should be ready by next year.  


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