BERN, 13-Dec-2016 — /EuropaWire/ — On 12 December 2016, the Directorate of International Law held its annual one-day event for the public at the Bern Rathaus. This year’s topic was the “Restitution of stolen assets”, and the discussion addressed both the process for recovering illicitly acquired assets and Swiss and international experience in this area. The guest speakers included political and legal experts, development professionals and representatives of the banking sector and civil society. They provided attendees with a step-by-step review of the process, from blocking assets to their restitution.
Asset recovery is a complex process with many participants. This issue, which one section of the Directorate of International Law (DIL) is in charge of handling, was chosen as the theme of the DIL’s one-day event in 2016. Speakers discussed the implications of this issue and the associated political, administrative and legal mechanisms. The event was also an opportunity for attendees to learn more about the various steps in the process, starting with the decision to freeze the assets, followed by the procedures and difficulties experienced during the inquiry phase and mutual legal assistance process, and ending with the challenges faced in returning the assets to their country of origin.
The first landmark case of the blocking and restitution of assets was in 1986, when the money that Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos held in Swiss bank accounts was frozen by the Federal Council. Other cases followed, and over the course of 30 years Switzerland has continually strengthened its hand in combating the investment of illicitly acquired assets. Thanks to Switzerland’s proactive policy, some USD 2 billion has been returned to the respective countries of origin. Switzerland’s pioneering role is internationally recognised.
The one-day event gave the speakers and the attendees a chance to assess Switzerland’s experience, and that of its international partners, in illicit asset recovery. The discussion revealed that successful asset recovery requires coordination between the authorities concerned and the exchange of best practices between partners and states.
Ambassador Roberto Balzaretti, the director of the DIL, reminded participants of the importance of making proactive efforts to prevent stolen assets from being transferred to Switzerland. He cited three reasons for this: to contribute to combating corruption, to strengthen the Swiss financial sector and to bolster the credibility of development assistance.
The FDFA’s new brochure, No Dirty Money, was also unveiled at this event.
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