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Swiss seek legal steps to return illicit funds

The government has presented a draft bill to amend a law on the restitution of assets of illicit origin in a bid to return funds to the authorities in Haiti.

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said the legal amendments – due to be submitted for consultation before being discussed in parliament – were complex.

“Switzerland would be a pioneer country in this field if the bill is passed,” she told journalists following Wednesday’s regular cabinet meeting.

The bill aims to simplify the freezing and confiscation of illicit funds deposited by dictators in Swiss banks as well as their return to the rightful authorities of the country.

She said Switzerland’s experience, notably in the cases of the former Haitian ruler Jean-Claude Duvalier and Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of Congo, had revealed limitations in the system because the states concerned were unable to conduct the required criminal proceedings.

Earlier this month the Swiss government blocked the restitution of assets worth SFr7 million ($6.5 million) to the Duvalier family in the wake of a decision by the Federal Court.

Calmy-Rey also pointed out that over the past 15 years Switzerland has returned more than SFr1.7 billion to countries which have been plundered by so-called “politically exposed persons”, including the former rulers of Nigeria, the Philippines and an ex-senior Peruvian politician.

Urs Geiser,

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