The Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, Hans Rudolf Hodel, in a meeting with the President elect, Muhammadu Buhari, disclosed that about $370million recovered from former head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha, has been traced by the Swiss government to a Luxembourg account.
The ambassador also revealed to Buhari that Nigerians ferrying money to Switzerland will now have to prove that such wealth is acquired legally before they are allowed to lodge such in the European nation’s banks.
Hodel said in the past the banks only needed to prove that the money deposited with them are legal money, adding that situations Switzerland has changed with depositors now needing to prove that they acquired the money legally before they will be allowed to deposit money in any bank in that country.
He said that collaboration between the Nigeria government and its Swiss counterpart in fighting corruption is a long standing issue, adding “our laws are there to help all countries fighting corruption. We will help this government.
“If you remember, many years ago, we gave back the Abacha money to Nigeria. The situation in Switzerland has changed. The policy is no longer the same. In the past, people come to deposit money in Switzerland without too much controversy. Now, it is not possible to deposit money in Switzerland because of legal origin.
“Before now, the bank has to prove that the money is legal. But now, before you deposit money in any Swiss bank, you have to prove that you have earned that money legally.
“If you are a wealthy businessman, you have money in billions legally, but if, for example as a journalist, you come to Switzerland with two million dollars and say you earned it because you did a very good job, nobody will believe you.”
The Ambassador said the Nigerian government and the Abacha family have sought legal assistance from the Swiss government to enable them retrieve the money, pointing out that Swiss government has offered the legal assistance.
He said further that his government is directly involved since the money is not in a Swiss bank.
On what he discussed with Buhari, he said “Even if the relation is perfect there is always room for improvement. Investors are looking towards Nigeria and it is a good example Nigeria gave to the world by its peaceful election.
“I congratulate the President -elect for this fantastic election and indeed the whole Nigeria people which has shown the world what they are capable of doing and with this election Nigeria has become an example not only to Africa but to the whole world on how election can be conducted.”
During Abacha's regime, he and his family reportedly stole a total of £5 billion from the country's coffers. In 2004, Abacha was listed as the fourth most corrupt leader in history.
Abacha served as the de facto Presidentof Nigeria from 1993 to his death in 1998.