Desmond Davies, London Bureau
London, March 29, GNA – The Nigerian and Swiss governments have signed a memorandum of understanding that will see looted funds from Nigeria returned to that country.
For decades, Switzerland was the destination of choice for Nigerian military and civilian officials who wanted to hide their ill-gotten gains.
But the growing global clamour for more transparency has forced the Swiss government to become more stringent in the way its banks open accounts for foreign clients.
Nigeria has been seeking the return of billions of dollars stolen mainly under the administration of military dictator General Sani Abacha since the country returned to civilian rule in 1999.
Last December, after years of labour, the Swiss government agreed to return $320 million looted from Nigerian state coffers by Gen Abacha, who died in 1998.
President Muhammadu Buhar made assets recovery and fighting corruption a major policy of his administration when he came to power in 2015.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said in a statement about the deal signed on Monday with Switzerland, which also involved the World Bank’s International Development Association: “The return of illegal assets will not only boost the administration’s anti-corruption drive, but also provide additional funds for critical infrastructure.”
Switzerland was again under the spotlight this week following the release of a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Working Group on Bribery, which said the country’s significant foreign bribery enforcement should be accompanied by harsher penalties and protection for private sector whistle-blowers.
The Working Group noted that since the last evaluation in 2012, six individuals and five companies had been convicted and a large number of foreign bribery cases were under investigation: 137 investigations for money laundering and foreign bribery in 2016 compared to 24 in 2011.
“Nevertheless, the Working Group considers that Switzerland should do even more to prosecute companies and apply tougher sanctions,” the report said.
“Private sector whistle-blowers, who are exposed to criminal prosecution as a result of reporting, should also be protected.
“While court decisions supporting enforcement of foreign bribery were noted, several court decisions have demonstrated a restrictive interpretation of both the offence and corporate liability,” according to the report.