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The phenomenon of illicitly acquired assets of politically exposed persons (PEP)s involves cases in which foreign PEPs or persons with close links to them illicitly enrich themselves by appropriating assets either through corruption or as a result of other criminal activities, and deposit them in financial centres outside their country of origin.

PEPs are persons who exercise prominent public functions abroad, specifically heads of state and government, senior politicians at national level, and senior officials in the government, judiciary, military and parties at national level, as well as in the highest bodies in state-owned companies of national importance.

The cornerstones of Swiss policy on dealing with illicitly acquired assets of PEPs are contained in the strategy adopted in 2014.

Switzerland's strategy on freezing, confiscating and returning illicitly acquired assets of PEPs ("Asset Recovery") (PDF, 24 Pages, 537.0 kB, French)

For a number of reasons, it is in Switzerland's interest not to serve as a depository for illicitly acquired assets of PEPs:

  • Commitment to the rule of law and to fight impunity
    For years, Switzerland has demonstrated its commitment to the rule of law and supported the fight against impunity. These principles are enshrined in the Swiss Confederation’s foreign policy strategy 2020–2023.
    Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–2023
  • Promoting transparency as a donor country in international development cooperation
    Illicitly acquired assets of PEPs are an important development policy issue. The World Bank estimates that each year the channelling of illicitly acquired assets of PEPs from developing countries to foreign financial centres causes losses totalling between USD 20-40 billion. As a donor country in an international development cooperation context, Switzerland believes it is important that financial support to partner countries be transferred in keeping with the principles of transparency and good governance and, as far as possible, in a way that prevents any abuses.
  • Reputation and integrity
    Reputation and integrity are two key factors in global competition between financial centres. Switzerland does not wish to serve as a depository for assets acquired by PEPs through corruption and other criminal activities.

The proactive policy pursued by Switzerland in returning stolen assets has made it an international leader in this domain. Over the last 30 years Switzerland has successfully returned approximately USD 2 billion of stolen assets to their countries of origin.


Last update 26.01.2022

  • Measures adopted by Switzerland in programmes on good governance in partner countries of its cooperation activities as well as strict legislation on countering money laundering prevent illicit assets of PEPs from entering Switzerland.

  • The Swiss Federal Council can freeze assets held in Switzerland by politically exposed persons. These persons include heads of state, senior officials and their entourage.

  • Switzerland must identify and return to the country of origin illicit assets that are found in Switzerland.

  • Switzerland's financial commitment to the International Centre for Asset Recovery (ICAR) in Basel and the Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative (StAR) of the UN and the World Bank


FDFA Directorate of International Law (DIL)

Kochergasse 10
CH – 3003 Berne

Asset Recovery

Kochergasse 10
CH – 3003 Bern


+41 (0)58 484 54 21