Stashing away and laundering the funds illegally amassed by their corrupt rulers is one of the key factors stabilising corrupt systems--the question of how to deal with the Marcoses, Mobutus and Suhartos of this world is still unresolved. Transparency International is often asked whether and under what conditions Swiss banking secrecy could be lifted, so that corrupt money could be returned to the country to which it rightfully belongs.
Transparency International (TI), the international anti-corruption NGO, has therefore welcomed a renewed move by the Swiss authorities to assist countries seeking to retrieve money gained illegally by corrupt leaders and stashed away in Swiss bank accounts. "This is a very positive response to an initiative of Transparency Switzerland," said Dr Peter Eigen, TI's chairman.
At the suggestion of TI's Swiss chapter, the Swiss Department of Justice and Police has written an official checklist for foreign mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. The new checklist explains which format a request should take in order to retrieve illegally gained money from Swiss banks, to whom it should be addressed and which formal requirements need to be met in order for it to be processed. In order to assist civil society groups in the countries affected, TI has today made the checklist available on its World-Wide Web Site in English, German and French.
"This is part of a wider campaign to bring about the creation and enforcement of international standards governing the conduct of off-shore banking centres," Dr Eigen explained. "It is utterly unacceptable for banking centres to facilitate the activities of criminals in the way in which they have in the past. The time has come for this to be ended, if not by the banking centres voluntarily, then under compulsion and threat of sanction."
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