Restitution of illicitly acquired assets

If illicitly acquired assets enter Switzerland despite the comprehensive precautionary measures in place, the funds in question must be identified and returned to the country of origin.

Restitution is an important pillar of Swiss policy on combating illicitly acquired assets. To date, Switzerland has returned approximately USD two billion in illicitly acquired assets of politically exposed persons (PEPs) – more than any other financial centre. Some cases attracted widespread media attention because the persons concerned were well known and very large amounts of assets were involved.

  • Duvalier, Haiti, (USD 6.5 million) ongoing
  • Abacha II, Nigeria, 2017 (USD 321 million)
  • Kazakhstan II, 2012 (USD 48 million)
  • Angola II, 2012 (USD 43 million)
  • Kazakhstan I, 2007 (USD 115 million)
  • Salinas, Mexico, 2008 (USD 74 million)
  • Angola I, 2005 (USD 24 million)
  • Abacha I, Nigeria, 2005 (USD 700 million)
  • Marcos, Philippines, 2003 (USD 684 million)
  • Montesinos I, Peru, 2002 (USD 93 million)

A successful restitution requires a solid partnership between the requesting state and Switzerland. When returning the funds, the principles of transparency and accountability should be respected and the returned assets should be employed in order to improve the living conditions of the population of the country of origin. In addition, the restituted funds might contribute to enforce the rule of law in the country of origin and with that to avoid impunity. It is in Switzerland’s interest to ensure that the restituted funds do not flow back into corrupt channels.

Solution on a case-by-case basis

Based on its experience, Switzerland is convinced that on the basis of a constructive dialogue between the requesting and the requested state, an appropriate solution can be found in each particular case. The solution needs to meet national and international expectations and be in line with the ideas put forward by the governments concerned. In doing so in the past, various programmes in the areas of health, education and good governance could be funded. When choosing such projects, inputs of the civil society in the country of origin are also taken into account. The experience acquired shows that there is no generally applicable solution and the mechanism of the restitution needs to be chosen on a case-by-case basis (no “one-size-fits-all” solution).