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Swiss banks and stolen wealth

By Moses Walubiri

Added 27th June 2012 12:21 PM

The revelation last week by the Swiss Central Bank that wealthy Africans have close to 1.53 trillion Francs stashed away in its vaults didn’t come as a surprise to those who have followed the history of the Alpine country’s banking history.

The revelation last week by the Swiss Central Bank that wealthy Africans have close to 1.53 trillion Francs stashed away in its vaults didn’t come as a surprise to those who have followed the history of the Alpine country’s banking history.

MOSES WALUBIRI
 
The revelation last week by the Swiss Central Bank that wealthy Africans have close to 1.53 trillion Francs stashed away in its vaults didn’t come as a surprise to those who have followed the history of the Alpine country’s banking history.
 
Perhaps, the only surprise was the revelation that wealthy Ugandans and entities too, have taken advantage of the quintessential cloak-and-dagger operations of Swiss banks to ‘save’ 154 Swiss francs (sh400b) in the European country.
 
Swiss banks have been an ideal destination for the world’s stolen wealth. That is from leaders of the Third Reich (Nazi Germany) spiriting away wealth plundered from Jews, to some of the most diabolical kleptocrats in Africa and Asia eager to conceal wealth looted  from the starving "wretched of the earth" that pass for their subjects .
 
Cold War legacy
 
For starters, the cold war might have been consigned to the archives, but the scars left by this ideological conflict that dragged the world to the precipice of nuclear annihilation was never short of subplots. And the most enduring was propping up  of brutal and corrupt regimes, by either the Soviet Union or the West,  that were deemed a bulwark against the spread of ‘toxic’ ideology. 
 
It was during this time that Swiss vaults were filled to the brim with stolen dollars of then thieving scaly dinosaurs that were in good books of the warring super powers.
 
In Africa, Zaire’s (now DRC) Marshal Mobutu, for example, had a string of high end real estate strewn across Europe. 
But the sly tyrant, who was conspicuous for his signature leopard skin attire had an uncanny inclination for the French Riviera and the Alpine country. 
 
By the time the Laurent Kabila led rebels - aided by virulent prostate cancer that had reduced Mobuto to ‘a human wreck’- pulled the plug on his three decades of plunder, Mobutu was rumored to have close to $4b in Swiss banks.
 
The Abach tale
 
In Nigeria, ruthless military leader, Gen. Sani Abacha was able to pilfer close to $1b of his country’s oil wealth in a spell of four years.  Upon his demise in November 1998, part of this money was frozen and handed over to the Olusegun Obasanjo led administration in a rather remarkable departure from the secretive nature of Swiss banks. 
 
In Asia, the regimes of Philippine’s Ferdinand Marcos and Indonesia’s Gen. Suharto raised the art of state thieving a notch higher with rumored billions in Swiss vaults.
 
And typical of cold war era tyrants with a god father either in Moscow or Washington, Marcos savored a tranquil evening in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Suharto, in Indonesia, safe in the knowledge that not a penny of their ill-gotten wealth would be frozen by their bankers.
 
Iron Curtain falls, new rules emerge
 
Ditto Anastasio Somoza (Nicaragua) and Papa and Baby Doc Duvalier (Haiti).
 
However, the tearing down of the Iron Curtain in the late 1980s obviated the perennial shoring up of thieving regimes of the Mobutu and Ferdinand ilk by Western governments.
 
Now, the rule of the game is accountability, good governance and human rights -pushed by organizations like Transparency International and Human Rights.
 
 Already, the US senate has acted as a trail blazer by enacting rules barring the investment of ill-gotten wealth in the ‘land of the free.’ The first victim of this rule has been the showy son of Equatorial Guinea president, Theodore Obiang Jr.  
 
The US authorities are hot on the trail of his estimated personal fortune of close to $40m in Beverly Hills, California alone.
In Europe, anti-graft campaigners have forced the French government to sanction investigations into the wealthy of the ruling families in Gabon and Congo – Brazzaville. 
 
Late last year, a host of marque cars were hauled away by the French police from luxury homes owned by relatives of the Bongo and Sassou Nguesso families in a number of French cities. 
And for eons, this has been the irony of the plunder of the third world by its political elite and the investment of the stolen wealth in banks and real estate in donor countries. 
 
Third World "donates" to the developed world
 
What is the rationale of the developed world donating billions to the world’s poor and then watch it return to the vaults of its banks through the ‘back door?’
 
Just as the case is with crimes against humanity, the third world will only be able to benefit from its wealth and donor aid if the West criminalizes looting from the poor and stashing the bounty in secret accounts in Macau, Cayman, Bahamas or Switzerland. 
 
The developed world would do Banana Republics a world of good if it blacklists sharks preying on the world’s poor, declare them persona non grata and freeze assets in their countries.
 
After all, some African countries lose more money through graft than they get through aid and grants. 
Only then will the Piranhas realize the folly of impoverishing their own through primitive fraudulent accumulation of wealth.                                                                                                                                  
 

The revelation last week by the Swiss Central Bank that wealthy Africans have close to 1.53 trillion Francs stashed away in its vaults didn’t come as a surprise to those who have followed the history of the Alpine country’s banking history.

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