Arab Spring: Attorney General meets Egyptian authorities in Cairo
On 17 December 2016, a delegation from the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) met the Egyptian authorities in Cairo for operational talks. This bilateral exchange provided the law enforcement authorities in both countries with an opportunity to take stock and discuss how to move forward in the ongoing criminal proceedings relating to the ‘Arab Spring’.
Today the Attorney General of Switzerland Michael Lauber and an OAG delegation met the Egyptian Attorney General in Cairo. Following on from productive talks in December 2013 and January 2016, the aim of today’s discussions was to assess the latest developments in the ongoing criminal proceedings and consider the next steps to be taken, while respecting the principles of sovereignty and independence. The Swiss Attorney General and his delegation also met today with representatives of the Egyptian committee for the restitution of assets located abroad.
Since 2011, the OAG has been conducting a criminal investigation based on suspicions of money laundering (Art. 305bis Swiss Criminal Code (SCC)) and of supporting and/or participating in a criminal organisation (Art. 260ter SCC) following events in Egypt related to the ‘Arab Spring’. Since opening these proceedings, the OAG has on several occasions requested the Arab Republic of Egypt for information on developments in proceedings and the legal situation in Egypt in relation to the suspects in the Swiss investigation and also with regard to the court judgments issued against these suspects in Egypt. The OAG has made a detailed analysis of the Egyptian judgments and decisions with regard to their potential impact on frozen assets in Switzerland. At the same time, the OAG has been conducting its own enquiries into the origin of these frozen assets. In addition, the OAG plans to take account of the decisions of the Egyptian committee for the restitution of assets located abroad (‘réconciliation légale’) where these decisions are corroborated by findings in the OAG’s investigation and thus influence the outcome of the Swiss proceedings.
The reconciliation of decisions taken in Switzerland and Egypt has already led to the OAG having to drop criminal proceedings against several persons in Switzerland and order the unblocking of frozen assets amounting to CHF 180 million.
As a consequence, the Swiss criminal investigation into suspicions of supporting and/or participating in a criminal organisation and money laundering is now being conducted against six persons; currently assets amounting to around CHF 430 million remain frozen.
The main challenges for the Swiss criminal proceedings remain the large amount of frozen assets and respecting the requirement to act promptly so that parties’ rights are not infringed. The latter is important primarily because the Arab Republic of Egypt has the status of a private claimant in the Swiss proceedings.