afrol News, 17 July - During her visit to Kinshasa, the President of the Swiss Confederation promised Congolese President Joseph Kabila Switzerland was now willing to help return the estimated US$ 6.6 millions frozen on accounts in the name of ex-Dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. But the process could still take much time.
Micheline Calmy-Rey, who this year heads the rotating presidency of the Swiss Confederation, yesterday confirmed to the press in Kinshasa that the Swiss government would not block an attempt to return the "Mobutu millions" to the government of Congo Kinshasa (DRC). In a joint press conference with President Kabila yesterday, she revealed that this had been part of the bilateral discussions earlier that day.
"Among the subjects discussed with President Joseph Kabila, we talked about the issue of funds of former Congolese dignitaries in Switzerland, particularly of those known as the 'Mobutu funds," Ms Calmy-Rey said. "There are approximately Swiss franc 8 million [US$ 6.6 million] that are frozen in Switzerland. The government of my country is determined to restore them to the DRC," she added.
According to the Congolese presidency, Ms Calmy-Rey had outlined to her counterpart that Switzerland did not have a tradition to keep "the money of others," recognising that the "Mobutu millions" had been stolen from the Congolese people. The Swiss President had also enlightened Mr Kabila on how to proceed to recover the stolen funds.
While Ms Calmy-Rey said she hoped a solution could "quickly be found", she nevertheless advised the Congolese government to engage a lawyer in Switzerland to follow up on the legal complications in such cases. The release of around US$ 500 million of funds "stolen" by Nigeria's former Dictator Sani Abacha from Switzerland some years ago prove to be both legally complicated and a lengthy process.
The millions frozen on Swiss accounts are only expected to represent a tiny part of the fortune stolen from former Zaire by ex-Dictator Mobutu and his family. Congolese authorities had expected there to be several billion US$ of Mobutu funds only on Swiss bank accounts and were thus disappointed by the official Swiss numbers of "only" US$ 6.6 million.
Swiss authorities froze bank accounts belonging to President Mobutu in 1997, soon after his regime was toppled. The government of Congo Kinshasa however holds that there must exist far greater amounts on other bank accounts, given Mr Mobutu's three-decade corrupt regime.
The Swiss President completed her official visit to Congo Kinshasa this morning. Ms Calmy-Rey is on an Africa roundtrip that so far has taken her to Senegal, Benin, Ghana, Chad and Congo, continuing to Burundi today. Her visit was the first-ever of a Swiss head of state to Kinshasa.
According to the Swiss government, Ms Calmy-Rey and Mr Kabila among other issues had discusses "a number of bilateral issues as well as events of regional importance, such as the situation in the Great Lakes region and the crisis in Darfur." Also Congolese human rights issues had been discussed. Switzerland is one of Congo Kinshasa's main donors.
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