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Switzerland to return $266 million in illegal commissions to Taiwan

The frigates were sold by France to Taiwan at an inflated price. Ap / Lee Chuan-shen

The money, worth CHF240 million, is part of illicit kickbacks on the sale of six French-made Lafayette warships to Taiwan in 1991. 

This content was published on February 4, 2021 - 12:07
swissinfo.ch/ac

The decision of the Taiwanese Supreme Court at the end of 2019 confirming the illegal origin of the funds held in Swiss bank accounts has paved the way for restitution of the second tranche of $266 million.  

This is likely to be the last restitution by the Swiss in this corruption case. “It could not be proven that the other frozen funds were derived from corruption, so the sequestration of these assets will be lifted,” the Federal Office of Justice said in a statement on Thursday. 

Long battle 

It is alleged that the French former state-owned firm Elf Aquitaine, used bribes – which ended up in Swiss bank accounts – to persuade French and Taiwanese authorities to approve the sale of the frigates. These were sold via another French firm, Thomson-CSF (now Thales), in a deal that was worth an estimated $2.5 billion.  

In 2001 Taiwan submitted a request for legal assistance to Switzerland in connection with the suspected kickbacks. The Alpine nation froze assets of almost $900 million and handed over numerous documents concerning blocked bank accounts to Taiwan in 2005. 

In 2007 Switzerland, with the agreement of the account holders, returned a first tranche of $34 million to the Taiwanese authorities. 

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