Illicitly acquired assets of politically exposed persons

Switzerland has a fundamental interest in ensuring that no illicitly acquired assets of politically exposed persons enter its financial centre. Switzerland's proactive policy has made it an international leader in this domain.

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, Number of pages 24, 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 2016-2019.
    Swiss Foreign Policy strategy 2016-2019
  • 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.

Documents

No dirty Money: The Swiss Experience in Returning Illicit Assets (PDF, Number of pages 32, 4.2 MB, English)

Switzerland is a pioneer with its policy in the fight against illegally acquired assets, contribution by Ambassador Roberto Balzaretti, Director of the Directorate of International Law, L’Agefi, 27.02.2017 (PDF, 217.4 kB, French)

Switzerland’s thirty years of engagement in the recovery of assets, speech by Ambassador Roberto Balzaretti, Director of the Directorate of International Law, on the occasion of the International Law Day 2016, 12.12.2016 (PDF, Number of pages 9, 218.3 kB, French)

Switzerland: Active in the global fight against corruption, guest contribution by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter, Südostschweiz, 01.07.2016 (PDF, Page 1, 1.2 MB, German)

Asset tracing: Follow the money, Financial times, 13.08.2014 (PDF, Number of pages 4, 536.3 kB, English)

Few and Far: The Hard Facts on Stolen Asset Recovery, Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, 2014

«Innovation in Asset Recovery: The Swiss Perspective, article by Ambassador Rita Adam, In: «Legal Innovation and Empowerment for Development, The Legal Review, Vol. 4, Washington 2013 (PDF, Number of pages 12, 240.2 kB, English)

No safe havens: a global forum on stolen asset recovery and development, speech by Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey on the occasion of the global forum on stolen asset recovery and development, Paris, 08.06.2010 (PDF, Number of pages 6, 51.5 kB, French)

The Swiss policy in the field of asset recovery: myths and realities, speech by Ambassador Valentin Zellweger, Geneva, 05.05.2010 (PDF, Number of pages 9, 56.6 kB, French)

Multimedia