Hans Rudolf Hodel, ambassador of Switzerland to Nigeria, has said his home government is ready to help Muhammadu Buhari fight corruption beginning with the recovery of about $370 million reportedly looted by Sani Abacha, former military head of state, stashed away in Luxembourg, a landlocked country in Western Europe.
Speaking on the commitment of the Swiss government to helping Nigeria fight corruption, Hodel said: “This is a long-standing issue. Our laws are there to help all countries which are 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, the bank has to prove that the money is illegal. But now, before you deposit money in a 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 Swiss ambassador also noted that his government had helped the Nigerian government recover some stolen funds, reiterating Switzerland’s willingness to offer help in that respect.
“There was a request by Nigeria to the Swiss authority to look for Abacha’s money and some amount has been found in an account. The recent one is $370 million traced to Luxembourg. That is now between the Abacha family and the government. They have tried to find a deal so that this money can also come back,” he said.
Asked when the money would be released to the Nigerian government, Hodel said the Swiss government lacked the capacity to return the money, but could quiz the Abacha family to get it back.
“My country is not involved. The Nigerian government has asked for legal assistance; when the government makes a request to my government, we work together on it,” he said.
“But this case is different. That is, the Abacha family directly with the Nigerian government finding a deal. So, the Swiss government is not involved and the money is in Luxembourg. They have asked for legal assistance and we have provided them with this information. It is not a classical case. And we would have preferred a classical case where we can give the money back and make sure that it is used in the interest of the people. Now, it is up to the Nigerian government.”