The Government of Switzerland has said it has not yet received a request from any arm of the Nigerian government on the Berne Declaration report which exposed the fraudulent oil deals of up to $6.8 billion by Swiss-based traders acting in collusion with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), but is ready to assist when approached.
Briefing the press ahead of a two-day seminar on Anti-money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism in Abuja Monday, the Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Hans-Rudolph Hodel, said his government had successfully closed the case against former military Head of State, the late General Sani Abacha, following the restitution of $700 million to Nigeria’s coffers.
He, however, said criminal proceedings were still pending in Geneva against the son of the late dictator, Abba Abacha, for supporting a criminal organisation.
On the Berne report, Hodel said: “I have no knowledge that we have been contacted by the authorities. In case they will start proceedings and they will need our help, of course with international legal cooperation, we would help them if they approach us. But until now, they have not approached us.”
He however emphasised that the report by the Berne-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) was not representative of the position of the Swiss government.
Abba is accused of belonging to a criminal organisation that embezzled Nigeria’s public funds between 1994 and 1998 when his father ruled the country.
At his first trial in 2010 in Geneva, he was given a two-year suspended sentence, which was annulled by Switzerland’s highest court on the grounds that the younger Abacha’s rights had been violated since he was tried in absentia.
Hodel said all funds traceable to Abacha had been returned, but stressed that the Swiss government was ready to reopen the case if Nigeria presents fresh evidence of any monies still being held in any Swiss bank.
“Switzerland and Nigeria agreed to request the World Bank to participate in the review of the use of funds, in the framework of a budget control process of various welfare projects,” he said.
Switzerland has also funded a project of a network of NGOs, which are monitoring the use of the recovered funds in various developmental projects, including rural electrification, primary healthcare and vaccination programmes, basic and secondary education, potable water and rural irrigation.
Hodel said Switzerland had no interest in habouring illicit funds and had returned about $1.7 billion to their countries of origin in the last 15 years.
The cases, he stated, attracted considerable publicity on account of the high profiles of the people and amounts of money involved such as the Ferdinand Marcos case (Philippines, 2003), Montesinos case (Peru, 2002) and the Angolese asset cases of 2005.
In recent years, Switzerland has since enforced stricter banking controls to include insistence on the identity of the account owner and proof of source of funds, he said.