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Villiger furious about Abacha money

The finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, says he was furious when he learned that the former Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha, had SFr1 billion in Swiss bank accounts. He said such cases damaged Switzerland's image as a financial centre.

This content was published on March 16, 2000 - 16:35

The Swiss finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, has told parliament he was furious when he learned that the former Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha, had SFr1 billion stashed away in Swiss bank accounts. He said such cases damaged Switzerland's image as a financial centre.

Villiger said he was angry because he spent much of his time travelling around the world, representing Switzerland and defending banking secrecy, only to find that such cases cropped up again and again. He said the harm done to Switzerland could not be put right even by spending millions of francs on publicity campaigns.

He called on the banks to ensure that they did not accept any more money from dictators. He said there was no need to change the laws, but that the banks had to live up to their moral responsibilities.

Villiger also told the House of Representatives he did not believe tighter penalties were necessary. He was responding to a question in the assembly on the investigations into the assets in Switzerland of the former president of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko.

Last October, Switzerland froze accounts in eight banks in Zurich and Geneva belonging to Abacha and his entourage. The Nigerian authorities accuse the account owners of systematically plundering the Nigerian central bank during Abacha's time in office.

swissinfo with agencies

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