Claims that Switzerland is “paternalistic” in its approach to returning stolen assets to their rightful countries are simplistic, argues Senior Asset Recovery Specialist Oscar Solórzano in this opinion article for Swiss news and information platform Swissinfo. The article is available on the Swissinfo site in German and Spanish.

H.E. Ambassador Stefan Estermann, Head of the Prosperity and Sustainability Division, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, made the following opening remarks at our joint virtual side event on Collective Action at the 2021 Special Session of the General Assembly against Corruption (UNGASS) on 2 June. View the full recording of the side event.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This case study describes the background, legal strategy and conclusion of a landmark case of non-conviction based confiscation in Peru that has enabled the successful confiscation of around one million dollars linked to terrorist financing.

The case relates to Nelly Marion Evans Risco, a British-Peruvian woman known popularly as “The Nun”. Evans held funds in a bank account in Switzerland that were intended to finance the Shining Path terrorist organisation, whose violent acts in the 1990s were responsible for an estimated 60,000 deaths in Peru.

I recently participated in a panel on the role of non-state actors in the recovery of stolen assets and proceeds of corruption at the 2020 International Anti-Corruption Conference, at which I presented the so-called “Russian arms dealer case”. The case is relatively small in monetary terms – around USD 700,000 plus interest – but hugely significant in terms of asset recovery efforts and international co-operation.

Peru’s Attorney General’s Office has recorded another successful use of its non-conviction based confiscation law, extinción de dominio, to recover stolen assets from abroad.

The case involves around USD 8.5 million plus interest frozen in a bank account in Switzerland since 2004. The assets derived from contracts for the purchase of overvalued MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-25 aircraft during the government of Alberto Fujimori.

This speech was given at a preparatory meeting for the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) against Corruption in 2021.

It deals with non-conviction based confiscation as a method to recover assets stolen through corruption, and how challenges in international cooperation in these cases can and should be overcome.

See Spotlight on non-conviction based confiscation at UNGASS preparatory meeting.

In this chapter of a report by Transparencia Venezuela, Estrategias jurídicas para la recuperación de activos venezolanos producto de la corrupción ("Legal strategies for recovering Venezuelan assets that are the proceeds of corruption"), Oscar Solórzano and Stefan Mbiyavanga devise asset recovery strategies in Swiss law from a practical angle. They also identify the most important authorities in all four phases of the asset recovery process: identification, seizure, confiscation and restitution.