In special situations, e.g. in the event of the collapse of a political regime, the Federal Council can, on the basis of the FIAA, take measures to prevent the withdrawal of any illicitly acquired assets that have entered the Swiss financial centre.
Freezing of assets
Since 1 July 2016, ordinances implementing the preventive freezing of assets of politically exposed persons (PEPs) and their entourage are based on the Federal Act on the Freezing and the Restitution of Illicit Assets held by Foreign Politically Exposed Persons (Foreign Illicit Assets Act, FIAA).
With the freezing of assets, the Federal Council provides support to the judicial authorities of the states concerned in order to enable them to communicate their request for mutual legal assistance in the framework of their criminal proceedings to Switzerland. It is in the responsibility of the relevant judicial authorities of the country in question to initiate the necessary criminal proceedings and to demonstrate the illicit origin of the frozen assets.
Following violence and unrest, as well as the fall of incumbent rulers, the Federal Council took measures to freeze the assets of former presidents Ben Ali (Tunisia-Ordinance), Mubarak (Egypt-Ordinance) and Yanukovych (Ukraine-Ordinance) as well as of persons from their entourage. A possible extension of the freezing is re-evaluated on an annual basis.
At its meeting on 13 December 2019, the Federal Council decided to extend the freeze on Tunisian and Ukrainian assets by one year, until January and February 2021 respectively.
In Egypt, several acquittals and reconciliation agreements contributed to the decision of the Egyptian judiciary to drop criminal proceedings in the most prominent cases with possible links to assets frozen in Switzerland. For this reason and in the absence of tangible results at the end of August 2017, the Swiss judicial authorities closed the mutual legal assistance procedures on cases with potential links to assets frozen in Switzerland. Therefore, the freeze on the Egyptian assets on the basis of the FIAA has no further purpose as defined by law and jurisprudence and the Federal Council lifted the freeze at its meeting on 20 December 2017.
Addendum on Libya and Syria
In the case of Libya, the Federal Council decided on 21 February 2011 to block any assets as a precautionary measure. At the end of March 2011, after the United Nations and the EU imposed sanctions on Libya, this freezing of assets was transferred to the sanctions regime, based on the Embargo Act. In the case of Syria, Switzerland again took action following the imposition of EU sanctions. In these two cases, Switzerland acts within the sanctions regime issued by the international community.