Death sentences delay return of Egyptian assets

529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were sentenced to death in Egypt on March 24 Keystone

Switzerland is unlikely to return CHF700 million ($791 million) in frozen assets to Egypt in the near future, given the death sentences awarded to 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, says the head of international law at the foreign ministry.

This content was published on March 31, 2014

Valentin Zellweger told Swiss public television, SRF, on Monday that developments in Egypt “are reflected in our proceedings one to one”. It is necessary to proceed more carefully, because Swiss law requires that human rights be respected, he said.

A court in southern Egypt sentenced members of the anti-establishment Muslim Brotherhood to death on charges including murder on March 24, triggering heavy criticism internationally.

In spite of current developments in Egypt, the Swiss government’s ultimate goal is to return the money to the Egyptian government, assuming it can be proven that the money was stolen, Zellweger said.

The Swiss government froze some CHF700 million in assets In 2011, following the collapse of the Egyptian regime presided over by then President Hosni Mubarak. The money was believed to have been stashed in Swiss banks by Mubarak and his entourage.

Assets of Tunisia and Libya were also frozen in Swiss banks over the past few years. The situation with Tunisia is very positive and moving forward, said Zellweger. There is a new constitution, elections, and more stability.

The situation in Libya “is much more difficult”. According to Zellweger, negotiation partners change regularly, reflecting the frequent changes in the government, “and that means that progress is much slower”.

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