Making sure crime doesn’t pay

Diplomatic dinners are not my favorite gig.  I rarely attend.  But I had a wonderful surprise last month at the Swiss Ambassador’s house, where I enjoyed an excellent meal and the company of several Swiss officials. They taught me something I didn’t know (not hard I admit).  I thought it would be of interest to readers.

Switzerland, which many of us still think of as the home of secret bank accounts and illegally stashed riches, is actually a risky place to stow your ill-gotten gains.  The government there can  not only to detect and freeze them, but also return them to the benefit of the people from whom they were stolen, sometimes through foreign assistance programs.  Restitution to date amounts to 1.7 billion Swiss francs, which is not chicken feed.

I thought this interesting enough to beg Jaggy Bernard, my dinner companion, to provide me with a brief description of how the Swiss do this.  Here is the admirable, and admirably brief, paper he sent.

I lived in Geneva in 1974, when I was working at the United Nations and my wife was teaching at the Ecole des Beaux Arts.  No one was returning stolen assets to poor countries then.  But they are now, and my hat is off to them for making this work.  Who says plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose ?

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