request for freezing assets
Conditions for restrictions are not met
The Swiss Foreign Ministry (Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) – Directorate of International Law) has responded negatively to a request for mutual legal assistance submitted by Lebanon in January 2020.
The FDFA said that the conditions for cooperation have not been fulfilled. In a letter to the Lebanese Swiss Association (LSA), it said: “The population is still demonstrating and calling for a real change. In other words, the asset freeze… is not a tool to impose change in other countries.”
It said regarding the freeze for purposes of confiscation in the event mutual legal assistance proceedings fail, that the Federal Illicit Asset Act provides for restrictive conditions, which only apply in exceptional circumstances. “These restrictive conditions are clearly not fulfilled in the case of Lebanon,” the FDFA said.
“The Swiss authorities understand the concerns of the Lebanese people about the allegations that illicitly acquired funds might have been transferred from Lebanon to Switzerland. Switzerland has an established policy on freezing, confiscating and returning illicitly acquired assets through mutual legal assistance. Switzerland can act on the basis of a respective request for mutual legal assistance if the necessary prerequisites are given. In particular, it is vital that the Lebanese authorities provide concrete indications to the Swiss authorities relating to the presumed unlawful origin of assets and indicate where these assets have been deposited in Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Office of Justice examined this request, and found that in order to be able to respond favorably, Swiss authorities need to obtain additional information. Therefore, the Federal Office of Justice sent a letter to the Lebanese authorities asking them to provide complementary information,” read the letter sent to the LSA.
“The FIAA contains extraordinary measures for extraordinary circumstances. These measures aim at supporting or complementing judicial cooperation in very specific situations,” it said.
The Swiss Government may order the freezing of assets, if four conditions are cumulatively met:
1) The government in the country of origin has lost power
2) The degree of corruption in the country of origin is notoriously high
3) It appears likely that the assets were acquired through acts of corruption or other felonies
4) The safeguarding of Switzerland’s interests requires the freezing of the assets.
“After careful examination of the situation in Lebanon, we consider that these conditions are not cumulatively fulfilled. In particular, we take note of the fact that the population is still demonstrating and calling for a real change. In other words, the asset freeze under the FIAA is not a tool to impose change in other countries,” the FDFA said.
Date Posted: Jun 05, 2020