Swiss freeze $1bn after Arab Spring

2012-10-16 18:47

Geneva - Switzerland has blocked nearly one billion Swiss francs or €800m in assets linked to former autocratic Middle Eastern leaders since the Arab Spring, the Swiss foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The Swiss government has held funds linked to ousted Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali since he left the country in January 2011, and those of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak after his departure from power the same year, said Valentin Zellweger, the head of the foreign ministry's international law department.

Switzerland had blocked some 700 million Swiss francs from Egypt and 60 million from Tunisia, and was currently working with the new administrations in those countries to find a way to return the funds to the Egyptian and Tunisian people, Zellweger told reporters in Geneva.

Following separate United Nations Security Council resolutions, Switzerland had also blocked 100 million Swiss francs from Libya and another 100 million from Syria, Zellweger said.

Asked why the restitution of funds to Tunisia and Egypt was taking so long, he said the onus was on those nations, since "it is them who determine the speed of the procedures".

"Switzerland is confronted in Egypt and Tunisia with cases unprecedented in size," Zellweger said.

In Tunisia's case, Switzerland held the accounts of 48 people close to Ben Ali, while 32 people linked to Mubarak had their holdings frozen in the Egyptian case, he explained, adding that each account had registered between 250 and 2 000 separate transactions.

Takes long

When asked about the relatively modest amount of frozen Tunisian funds, Zellweger said there were two possible explanations:

Either "the Ben Ali clan did not like Switzerland," and had therefore placed its funds elsewhere, or the Swiss measures taken to avoid suspicious funds "worked well, and Swiss banks refused the funds", he said.

Switzerland is the only country that has published the amount of funds it has frozen, Zellweger said.

It remained unclear, he said, how long it would take to return the cash to its countries of origin, where in most cases the money is desperately needed for reconstruction or democratisation efforts in the vacuum left by the departed dictators.

The fastest such procedure ever carried out by Switzerland took five years and came with its restitution of blocked funds linked to Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha after his reign ended with his death in 1998.

While frozen in Switzerland, the funds are managed conservatively, and any interest gains are returned to the country in question, along with the capital.

  • ft.burhaak - 2012-10-16 19:14

    Freezing it and not returning it to the people of that country will be like daylight robbery.

      kaydin.davids - 2012-10-16 20:04

      I wonder how many more billions of 'stolen' assets are hiding in secretive swiss banking accounts?

      ft.burhaak - 2012-10-17 07:12

      @kayden.Switzerland is 1 of the few countries that wont have to bother about a recession or bailout.They have the luxury of stealing (freezing) any 3rd world country or Arab leaders bank balance at will.I say putting your money in a Swiss a/c is like playing russian roulette.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-10-17 07:19

      ft.burhaak, you exactly nothing about these things, so best to do a bit more research, a lot more in fact, then come back and comment.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-10-17 07:20

      ft.burhaak, you know exactly nothing about these things, so best to do a bit more research, a lot more in fact, then come back and comment.

      ft.burhaak - 2012-10-17 07:39

      Fred,i would listen,but its difficult to take advice from a propagandist.

  • john.breakfacet - 2012-10-16 19:14

    The Swiss are the most disgusting Caucasians in the world. They will take Nazi money, African strong man money, launder drug money all under the guise of " banking secrets" They should all be brought to trial and shot at the first available dawn.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-10-16 19:23

      John, EIGHT BILLION RAND OF STOLEN LOOT !!!!! Should we not first start with the THUGS who stole this money from the 'people', in the first place!!!!! THEY are the ones who should be shot !!! The Swiss are right , to keep the money, until the structures are in place, that will guarantee that this money is returned to the people !!!

  • JohnDough - 2012-10-16 19:54

    THe cANCer steals more than this every year and I don't see anything happening here.

  • gerrit.vanpletzen - 2012-10-17 04:43

    Have they given back all the money stolen from the Jewish people during the second World War that they were hiding from the rightful owners? I believe it took more than 50 years to force them to do something about that. Bloody hipocrytes.

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 06:52

    What happened to the +-$90 billion wealth fund belonging to Libya held in western institutions? Three months ago it was reported that the IMF was preparing a loan package for Libya and Egypt. Is this the freedom that the stupid Libyans fought for, to be debt slaves to western institutions and have their economic policy written up by the World Bank and the IMF.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-10-17 07:05

      Every dollar, that belongs to Libya, will be returned to the Libyans. For sure !!! It were your heroes, these gaddafi scumbags, who stole most of this money from their 'own' people!!! they also destroyed the proper functioning of the reserve bak, like everything else they destroyed. And you can jump up and down out of frustration, as much s you like, it is ONLY the violent loonies of the left, who wish the Libyans bad!! HOW SICK AND DISTURBED CAN ONE GET ??????????????????

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-10-17 07:21

      Zzzzzzzzzzzz Fidel still in his stale and boring anti-West stupor.

      ft.burhaak - 2012-10-17 07:32

      @fidel.I think in europe dictionary, 'steal' is called 'freez'.Did you ever hear of Switzerland having a recession or needing a bailout?

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 07:49

      The Swizz like all bankers have no conscience and these actions smack of opportunism as opposed to any form of principles. There are today billions of dollars of looted funds sitting in Swizz bank accounts, belonging to current despots. Western politicians and their business class will allow these despots to use their banking facilities so long as these despots toe the line and their countries are friendly to western business interests. It's only when these despots become too tjatjarag , then all hell and brimstone is called upon, they and their countries are demonised, and suddenly the populace of that country becomes important to neo colonialist. The very same charlatans want to teach the world about morals and principles. Their hypocrisy is sickening..

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