The Federal Council presents a draft law on the restitution of illicit assets to the two chambers of parliament

Bern, Press release, 28.04.2010

Following the consultation procedure which opened on 24 February 2010, the Federal Council decided today to present to the two chambers of parliament a draft law on the restitution of the illicit assets of politically exposed persons (PEPs). The vast majority of participants in the consultation procedure welcomed the draft law, which underlines Switzerland's global pioneering role in the restitution of illicitly acquired assets.

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

Further information:

Dictators' assets (potentate funds)

Address for enquiries:

Information FDFA
Bundeshaus West
CH-3003 Bern
Tel.: (+41) 031 322 31 53
Fax: (+41) 031 324 90 47


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs