Malaysiakini News

Swiss aim for new law to return stashed funds

Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters  |  Published:  |  Modified:

Switzerland expects to adopt a new law by the end of the year that will speed restitution of illicit funds stashed in the Alpine country, where thousands of 'politically exposed persons' are believed to hold bank accounts, a top Swiss official said in Berne on Monday.

Swiss authorities are cooperating with a number of countries, among them Haiti, Egypt, Tunisia and Ukraine, to return stolen assets that have been frozen following changes in power, said Valentin Zellweger, head of the Foreign Ministry's Federal Department of International Law.

Specifically, they are working to return US$40 million to Tunisia, a "big slice" of the US$60 million stashed during the era of former leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Zellweger said.

But the killing of Egypt's general prosecutor has slowed cooperation with Cairo on returning funds linked to former President Hosni Mubarak ( photo ), he said.

The two houses of the Swiss Parliament still need to reconcile their versions of the new draft law, including the issue of a statute of limitations, Zellweger said.

"I guess that we will only have the statute by the end of the year," he said. "It will be the most comprehensive act worldwide... it is the right thing to do."

In the last 25 years, Switzerland has returned US$1.8 billion in stolen or embezzled funds seized in accounts held by dictators ranging from the Philippines' Ferdinand Marcos and Nigeria's Sani Abacha to Haiti's Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier and Sese Seko Mobuto of the former Zaire.

In the latest cases, Swiss authorities have agreed to a US request to freeze funds with suspected links to Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov, a Swiss Justice Office spokesperson said.

Criminal proceedings against 1MDB

Karimova had been Uzbekistan's ambassador to the UN in Geneva and there were questions of immunity, Zellweger said, adding: "The Swiss authorities are one of the first to freeze."

The Swiss Office of the Attorney-General has also opened a criminal proceeding against two executives and unknown persons from Malaysia's troubled state investment fund, 1MDB, for suspected corruption and money laundering.

Switzerland is the world's largest offshore wealth centre, with US$2.4 trillion in assets in 2014, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

Asked about Swiss banks and authorities doing proper due diligence to identify dubious funds, Zellweger said, "I certainly would not tell you we have failed on prevention, but obviously we have to get better.

"Prevention starts with the banks. We have to work with the banks to sensitise them even more to the danger of accepting such funds," he said. "The most important thing is we have the legal framework in place."

"We are the biggest private offshore banking centre in the world. I don't think we are worse than the others.

"Our aim is to minimise the accidents. Asset recovery is part of the attempts of the government to minimise accidents."

- Reuters

Related Reports

We won't use tasers for Bersih 4 rally: police

Sultan: Don't fool rakyat by whitewashing country's woes

Johor Sultan: Stem economic woes now

The old man's plot

Umno rep: TMJ's warning must apply to Johor tycoons

PKR Youth's Skuad to be deployed for Bersih 4 rally

Bar Council calls for EGM over Najib's RM2.6bil

Rafidah: Are Umno's strings being pulled for RM2.6b?

'Pegging ringgit will invite speculative attack'

Swiss aim for new law to return stashed funds

Swiss 1MDB probe focuses on two executives

PAS reiterates it’s out of Bersih 4

Gov’t to establish special economic committee

Muhyiddin to be sacked as Umno No 2?

In bid to stay in power, PM ‘bastardises’ M’sia

Ringgit will keep falling if key issues not addressed

What happened to the '40 thieves'?

Backing down helps increase Penang’s stature

Sign in


Welcome back,

Your subscription expires on
  

Your subscription will expire soon, kindly renew before
  

Your subscription is expired
  Click here to renew

You are not subscribed to any subscription package
  Click here to subscribe now

Any questions?
  Email: [email protected]
  Call: +603-777-00000

Renew