Mobutu assets stay frozen

The Swiss government has once again extended the freezing of assets deposited in Swiss banks by the late president of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko.

This content was published on February 25, 2009 - 19:06

The deadline for returning the assets worth around SFr8 million ($6.54 million) to Mobutu's family has now been pushed from February 28 to April 30 to give legal authorities more time to work on the case.

On December 12, 2008 Switzerland agreed to keep the assets frozen so that a Congolese government lawyer could initiate proceedings in Switzerland to block the assets and for the competent legal authority to decide how to deal with the case.

The Congolese authorities then filed a criminal complaint with the federal state prosecutor on January 23.

This complaint concerns members of Mobutu's regime as well as members of his family accused of involvement in a criminal organisation. This complaint also seeks to provide a legal basis for the freezing of the assets currently frozen by the Swiss government.

A favourable decision by the federal state prosecutor on the opening of proceedings could pave the way for a ruling to confiscate the assets.

Ten years ago Switzerland blocked assets deposited by the late ruler and his family in response to a request from the country's government.

The Swiss government has expressed its willingness in the past to return the assets to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In early December 2008 the Swiss government announced it was drafting legislation that would make it easier to return money stolen by deposed dictators and deposited in Swiss banks. The foreign ministry said the law would allow countries to retrieve so-called potentate money from accounts even if they were unable to conduct legal proceedings against a former dictator.

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