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Switzerland hosts expert meeting on restitution of politically exposed persons’ assets

Between 27 February and 1 March 2017 the tenth annual Lausanne Seminar on the restitution of politically exposed persons’ assets was held in Lausanne. The event was attended by experts on international mutual legal assistance, financial information exchange, and asset recovery. The meeting focused on the international cooperation in the mentioned area under the UN mandate.

Since 1986, Switzerland has taken every effort to ensure that assets illicitly acquired by politically exposed persons (referred to as dictators’ assets) are returned to the countries they belong to. If such assets are frozen by the authorities of the country where they are located, it is possible for the respective country of origin to request mutual legal assistance for their recovery. The aim of such mutual legal assistance is to trace the assets in question, to return them to their rightful owners, and to ensure that they are not used for corrupt purposes.

Close cooperation between countries, specifically at the stage of mutual legal assistance, is of vital importance for the successful restitution of assets in question.

The Lausanne Seminars were launched in 2001 by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in close collaboration with the International Centre for Asset Recovery (ICAR) of the Basel Institute on Governance. They are supported by the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) initiative of the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The purpose is to foster dialogue and the exchange of expertise on the relevant cases.

At the ‘Lausanne VIII’ seminar (2014), a set of guidelines for simplifying cooperation between authorities on mutual legal assistance was drafted. The mandates were extended by the COSP and the UN General Assembly in 2015 and 2016, respectively, to supplement the guidelines with a step-by-step guide to the procedural actions to be taken by the countries concerned in cases involving politically exposed persons’ assets. The guide will be made available to the international asset recovery community and is intended to serve as a global working instrument explaining what to do at each stage of the restitution process. The first part of the guide was drafted at the ‘Lausanne IX’ seminar (2016), while the step-by-step guide is scheduled to be presented to the international community in November 2017.