Switzerland to extend freeze on Mobutu assets
The Congolese government files a criminal complaint with Switzerland against the late dictator’s regime.GENEVA - Switzerland said Wednesday it would freeze for two more months CHF 7.7 million (EUR 5.2 million, USD 6.6 million) worth of assets belonging to the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and his regime.
Without the extension, the Swiss fortune of the former leader of Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo, would be returned to Mobutu's inheritors at the end of February, when the current freezing order ends.
On 23 January however, the government in Kinshasa filed a criminal complaint with Switzerland against Mobutu's regime and his family members, alleging their involvement in a criminal organisation.
If the complaint is successful, it could lead to the confiscation of the assets, said the Swiss Foreign Ministry in a statement.
"As the examination of the case is a time-consuming task, the Federal Council considered it necessary to order a further extension to the final freezing, until 30 April 2009," said the Swiss foreign ministry.
Mobutu came to power in a 1965 coup, five years after the central African nation gained independence from Belgium.
He ruled Zaire for 32 years, forcing the country into a long economic crisis marked by state corruption, stealing of funds and excessive luxuries.
Mobutu was overthrown in May 1997 by Laurent Kabila, the father of the current president Joseph, and died of cancer a few months later while in exile in Morocco.
Swiss authorities froze the money shortly after Mobutu was forced from power.
Swiss newspaper NZZ reported that Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey wrote to Joseph Kabila in late 2008 urging him to decide what to do with the funds.
Swiss authorities also tried without success to contact Mobutu's inheritors to ask them to give up their share of the money, the newspaper added.
According to NZZ, Congolese officials remained silent because Mobutu's son, Nzanga Mobutu, is one of the country's deputy prime ministers.