At the request of the G7, Switzerland is hosting the third session of the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery (AFAR III) in Geneva from 1 to 3 November 2014. The forum was established in 2012 on the initiative of the US presidency of the G8. The overall aim is to support Arab countries in transition in their efforts to recover illicitly obtained assets.
Switzerland is hosting AFAR III and is chairing the event in conjunction with Tunisia and Egypt. On Saturday the President of the Swiss Confederation, Didier Burkhalter, opened the ministerial segment of the forum, which is being held at the International Conference Centre of Geneva (CICG). In his speech Mr Burkhalter pointed out that the restitution of potentates' assets had never occupied such an important place in the international arena before the Arab transitions began. Nor, he said, had coordination between the countries concerned ever been carried out as closely or at such an early stage.
Referring to the Marcos case, Mr Burkhalter drew attention to the fact that Switzerland had been engaged in the issue of potentates' assets for over twenty years, then went on to highlight the set of specific legal instruments that Switzerland had developed over the years. He made special reference to the Federal Act on the Freezing and Restitution of Illicit Assets held by Foreign Politically Exposed Persons, which is to be debated in Parliament in 2015.
Mr Burkhalter was speaking before the Tunisian and Egyptian ministers of justice, and ministers and attorneys general from the United Kingdom, Qatar and various other countries. In total some 250 experts from 40 countries and six international organisations are participating in the forum. The forum's objective is to jointly identify those factors which have enabled recovery procedures to advance, in order to accelerate such procedures for the recovery of illicit assets in the countries concerned.
After the opening ceremony on Saturday in the presence of ministers, the following day will be devoted to working meetings and bilateral discussions among experts from different countries on specific cases. The closing ceremony of the forum will take place on Monday, in the presence of Attorney General of Switzerland Michael Lauber.
Thanks to its long-standing experience with potentates' assets, Switzerland has been involved from the outset in the work of the AFAR, which held its two preceding sessions in Qatar and Morocco. Switzerland has been working actively for over 20 years to combat the presence in its jurisdiction of illicit assets held by politically exposed persons. The determined stance adopted by Switzerland has resulted in the restitution of some USD 1.8 billion – more than any other financial centre.
Experience has shown that the processes involved in the restitution of illicitly obtained assets are complex and time-consuming. Despite that, Switzerland has already recorded remarkable success in the context of the Arab transition. Thanks to close collaboration between the authorities concerned, in April 2014 the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland ordered the early restitution of approximately USD 40 million to Tunisia. This decision is now pending before the Federal Criminal Court, which, at the beginning of October 2014 in the Libyan context ordered the confiscation of CHF 40 million and imposed a prison sentence on a Tunisian-Canadian dual citizen on charges of corruption.
For further information:
+41 (0)79 517 79 82
FDFA – AFAR dossier – Illicitly acquired assets (PEPs)
World Bank – Arab Forum on Asset Recovery (AFAR)
World Bank - The Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR)
Speech by the President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr. Didier Burkhalter
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