Switzerland has transferred approximately $4 million to Tunisia, in response to a request for mutual legal assistance. The final destination of these assets will depend on the proceedings currently under way in Tunisia.
Acting on a request for mutual legal assistance from Tunisia, on 26 May 2017 the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland ordered the transfer of an additional amount of approximately $4 million.
The assets had been frozen in Switzerland in connection with a close relative of the former president of Tunisia, and are being transferred to the current Tunisian authorities with that person’s agreement. The decision on what should be done with the assets now lies with the Tunisian authorities, and will depend on the proceedings currently in progress in Tunisia.
In early 2011, the Federal Council responded immediately to the political events in North Africa by freezing the assets held in Switzerland by the deposed President Ben Ali and his entourage. The assets were frozen in order to prevent the possible flight of capital suspected of having been illicitly acquired and thereby facilitate judicial cooperation with Tunisia.
Since then, criminal investigations have been opened in Switzerland and Tunisia and mutual legal assistance requests have been exchanged. Judicial cooperation functions well between the two countries: in May 2016 Switzerland successfully made a first restitution of approximately CHF 250,000 to Tunisia.
This new restitution is a tangible manifestation of the good cooperation that exists between Switzerland and Tunisia.
It is a success for mutual legal assistance and marks an important step in the long and complex process of recovering the illicit assets of politically exposed persons, a process to which Switzerland has been committed for years.