Angola and Switzerland on Monday in Luanda signed a memorandum of understanding on mutual legal and judicial assistance in criminal matters, which should give “greater speed” to asset recovery by the Angolan state.
The memorandum is an “instrument of common interest,” mainly due to the “simplification of legal assistance procedures, standardisation of working language and the option for direct contact instead of compulsory diplomatic channels.
The document was signed on behalf of the Angolan state by the Attorney General (PGR), Hélder Pitta Grós, and on behalf of the Swiss Confederation by its ambassador to Angola, Nicolas Herbert Lang.
According to the PGR, the memorandum is the result of “careful work between the parties, motivated by the desire to strengthen cooperation relations in the criminal field, relations that until now have been based on friendship, reciprocity and mutual recognition between states.
The instrument of mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, Hélder Pitta Grós said, included a wide range of cooperation, namely notifications of judicial acts, document and witness gathering, searches, seizures and freezing of assets.
Tracking and/or identifying illicit income, spontaneous transmission of information to the effective recovery of assets are also other areas of the memorandum signed today in the Angolan capital.
Asset recovery, “which has been one of the biggest priorities of the Angolan State’s criminal policy,” noted the Angolan public prosecutor, “is one of the big and important solutions put forward by the memorandum.
“This will certainly allow, with greater security and speed, goods and assets that are domiciled and others to return to Angola,” Pitta Grós said during the ceremony held at the Palace of Justice.
For the Angolan Attorney General, the bilateral legal instrument will be “very valuable in criminal prosecution, which will make it possible to carry out procedural steps in connection with the Swiss state more quickly.
In this way, he explained, “it will bring the Angolan judicial authorities the essential elements for justice to be done.
The legal document signed between the sides, he said, “marks a very important stage” in mutual relations between the states, “allowing state agreements to be signed in the near future in the areas of extradition and transfer of sentenced persons.
“We are convinced that we will all gain from the signing of these instruments, especially as there are relevant issues of common interest that may be overcome by the broad mutual legal and judicial assistance in criminal matters provided by this memorandum,” he concluded.
The ambassador of the Swiss Confederation in Angola, Nicolas Herbert Lang, praised the agreement assuring that “all money of Angolan origin, unduly deposited in Swiss accounts, will be returned.
“A lot of money is at stake, even huge sums, it is money that does not belong to Switzerland”.
“It is Swiss law that all money whose origin is illegal and has been proven is returned on the basis of a legal assistance procedure, this evidently also applies to all money of Angolan origin improperly deposited in Swiss accounts,” he noted.
The memorandum “provides a foundation for future cooperation, it will promote mutual understanding of each other’s legal system and realities, we have as of today an instrument that allows discussing a case among our legal cooperation experts before drafting a request,” Nicolas Herbert Lang stressed.
“Inversely, thanks to this agreement, it will be more difficult in the future to profit from corruption and other criminal acts, whether in Angola or in Switzerland,” he said.
The Swiss diplomat also said that his country’s financial centre continues to be number one in the world in wealth management and manages US$2.5 trillion (2.11 trillion euros) in cross-border assets, which represents more than 25 percent of the world’s cross-border assets under management.
Total assets under management in Switzerland, he pointed out, amount to 8.7 trillion US dollars (7.37 trillion euros) noting also that his country “has one of the strictest legislations to prevent financial crime”.
“No other country has so far returned more illicit funds to the countries of origin and, incidentally, there are no longer any anonymous bank accounts and the secrecy of foreign bank customers was abolished years ago,” he said.
Nicolas Herbert Lang also said that similar agreements like the one signed today will be concluded with many other states “in the not-too-distant future”.