Switzerland is working to promote the effective implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which entered into force in 2003, at the international level. The UNCAC defines global norms to prevent and combat corruption. It is also the first international convention to specifically address the restitution of illicitly acquired assets (Chapter V). Switzerland played a significant role in the elaboration of the UNCAC by contributing a draft of article 57 (on the return and disposal of assets) and chairing the working group on the chapter of the convention which dealt with this issue.
United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC)
In accordance with the fundamental principles of Chapter V (Asset Recovery) of the UNCAC, Switzerland is committed to enhancing international cooperation and coordination in the fight against illicitly acquired assets. Switzerland provides financial support to the International Centre for Asset Recovery (ICAR) in Basel and the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Initiative which was launched in 2007 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Bank.
Lausanne Process and the International Guidelines
An important instrument in this context is the Lausanne Process. Since 2001 Switzerland has been organizing international expert seminars in Lausanne (Lausanne Seminars). The aim of these meetings is to regularly discuss actual asset recovery challenges and ways to overcome them, transfer knowledge, create networks and take advantage of the opportunity to establish direct contacts between foreign ministries and judicial authorities of requested and requesting countries. The Lausanne Process is well established and appreciated amongst experts.
Switzerland launched the idea of developing a set of international good practices aimed at providing requested and requesting states, especially after changes of government, with specific guidance for the process of asset recovery and to contribute to ensure a level playing field between financial centres. This initiative was confirmed by two UN mandates, which called on interested States to develop Guidelines and a practical step-by-step guide for the Efficient Recovery of Stolen Assets at the UN General Assembly and the Conference of States Parties to the UNCAC in November 2013.
During 2014’s Lausanne seminar, the Guidelines for the Efficient Recovery of Stolen Assets were developed by over 30 jurisdictions and in close cooperation with ICAR and StAR.
Guidelines for the Efficient Recovery of Stolen Assets
The guidelines are specified in a step-by-step guide, which proposes the individual procedural steps to be taken by the countries concerned in a case involving politically exposed persons’ assets. The guide is available to the international asset recovery community as an online-tool. It is intended to serve as a global working instrument by explaining in comprehensible terms which steps can be taken at which stage of the restitution process.
Online-tool for the Guidelines for Efficient AR