POLITICIANS and government officials who steal from Nigeria’s till with the intention of salting the loot away in Swiss banks may soon have difficult times, as the Swiss government has vowed to expose public officers who stashed away looted funds in the country’s banks, following the country’s new laws which frown on anonymous bank accounts.
In a related development, the Swiss government also declared that the son of Nigeria’s late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, Abba, still had a case to answer in Geneva for supporting a criminal organisation, despite the return of his late father’s looted $700 million by the government of Switzerland to Nigeria.
The Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, Hans-Rudolf Hodel, who spoke exclusively to Sunday Tribune through email enquiry, made these revelations. He declared that henceforth, criminals who used his country as a haven for their illegal wealth would no longer be accommodated.
He gave details of how the fund looted by Abacha was returned to Nigeria as well as how the World Bank participated in the review of the use of the returned looted funds, but did not name the criminal organisation linked to the son of the late Head of State.
He noted that the entire $700 million Abacha loots blocked in Swiss bank accounts had been returned to Nigeria.
Hodel told Sunday Tribune that “proceedings for support of a criminal organisation are still pending in Geneva against Abba Abacha, the son of the former Nigerian president,” but added that “as this is an ongoing case, we can give no further information.”
He said: “In December 1999, Nigeria presented to Switzerland a formal request for mutual legal assistance involving the former Head of State, Sani Abacha. On the basis of Swiss legislation, the Swiss authorities were able to gather, thanks to a close partnership with the Nigerian authorities, all relevant information and to proceed, between 2005 and 2009, with the restitution of the funds to the Nigerian government.
“Switzerland and Nigeria agreed to request the World Bank to participate in the review of the use of the funds in the framework of a budget control process of various welfare projects. Additionally, Switzerland funded a project of an NGO network which monitored the use of the recovered funds in the various development projects such as rural electrification, economic development, roads, primary health care and vaccination programmes, basic and secondary education as well as provision of potable water and rural irrigation executed by several Nigerian agencies.”
In a revelation that could prove catastrophic for the army of Nigerian public officials and others from the Third World countries, who have taken Switzerland as the sanctuary for hiding funds looted from their countries, the Swiss Ambassador declared that “Swiss banking secrecy protects the privacy of bank clients, but it is not unlimited. If there are suspicions of criminal activities such as terrorism, organised crime, money laundering or tax fraud, it is lifted and the authorities are given access to banking information. No anonymous accounts exist in Switzerland.”
He concluded that “money laundering was recognised as an offence in the Swiss Criminal Code since 1990. On 1 February, 2009, various improvements in Switzerland’s anti-money laundering arsenal came into force, enabling Switzerland to stay abreast of the more sophisticated international standards.”