However, this could only happen if Malaysia were to submit legal-assistance requests to Switzerland.
KUALA LUMPUR: The Swiss government has indicated its “readiness” to freeze the “illicit assets” of politically exposed Malaysian leaders if Malaysia submits legal asistance requests to its government.
According to Switzerland, the nation’s federal constitution empowers the Swiss government (known as the Federal Council) to freeze assets of politically exposed persons in Switzerland.
“Such a freeze usually happens with a view to entering into legal-assistance relations with the countries of origin,” it said in an official statement which was released by a Swiss-based NGO Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) today.
The statement came days after the announcement by Switzerland’s Attorney-General that it had opened a criminal case against Swiss bank UBS on grounds of the bank’s suspected laundering of US$90 million on behalf of Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman.
The statement was a written response to questions submitted last May by Swiss social democrat MP, Carlo Sommaruga.
In the official reply, the Swiss Federal Council declared its readiness to freeze illicit assets of politically exposed persons from Malaysia, namely Musa and Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud.
Both Musa and Taib have been accused of amassing unexplainable amount of wealth while helming their respective states. Of the two, Taib allegedly has a worse track record which BMF and online investigative portal Sarawak Report have actively exposed.
But in declaring its willingness to act, the Swiss government noted that this could only happen if Malaysia were to submit legal-assistance requests to Switzerland.
“Switzerland has hitherto not been requested by Malaysia to provide legal assistance.
“Should such a request come from Malaysia, then Switzerland would provide the legal assistance if the legal prerequisites are met and if there are no grounds for exclusion. The request would have to be first examined by the Federal Office of Justice.
“At the moment, such a situation does not exist in the case of Malaysia,” the official statement said.
Swiss-aided HK probe
Musa and his UBS accounts have been the focus of parallel investigations in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Switzerland for alleged money laundering running into hundreds of millions dollars.
The investigations have taken its toll on UBS’s other alliances.
Sarawak Report had in July reported that HSBC’s global head of compliance had resigned in disgrace, acknowledging the bank had turned a blind eye to the staggering S$38 trillion of suspect transactions.
The issue has also apparently caught the interest of the US Senate committee on Homeland Security as it involved a colossal amount of money that had been transacted and transferred across several countries over the past years.
Yesterday’s statement by the Swiss government has also further confirmed that in 2011 the Swiss government had indeed “provided legal assistance” to Hong Kong in relation to Musa’s alleged case of “criminal collusion in bribery and taking bribes”.
The government said that thus far in the Musa’s case, no such request for legal assistance has been made by Malaysia.
Over the past 15 years, Switzerland has returned 1.7 billion Swiss francs of illicit funds to the countries of origin, “more than any other finance centre of comparable size”.
Currently, the Egyptian government is pressurising Switzerland for the quick release of 700 million Swiss francs embezzled by the former Egyptian ruler, Hozni Mubarak.