The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) announced this week that it's currently conducting nine investigations in the Petrobras case and has issued an order freezing USD$400 million in assets deposited in Switzerland in connection with the Petrobras bribery scandal.
The release of over USD$120 million “reflects Switzerland’s clear intention to take a stand against the misuse of its financial center for criminal purposes and to return funds of criminal origin to their rightful owners,” the OAG stated. On a two-day working visit to Brasilia, Switzerland’s Attorney General Michael Lauber held talks with Brazil’s General Prosecutor Rodrigo Janot on the prospects of working together on the Petrobras corruption scandal.
To date, the OAG has received around 60 reports of “suspicious transactions” from the Money Laundering Reporting Office (MROS) connected with the bribery scandal in Brazil involving state-owned oil company Petrobras. Since April 2014, the OAG has opened investigations against eight Brazilian citizens and one person yet to be identified.
As part of these investigations, the OAG said it has uncovered over 300 accounts at over 30 banking institutions in Switzerland that “apparently were used to process the bribery payments under investigation in Brazil.” Beneficial owners of these business accounts are senior executives at Petrobras, suppliers of the company, financial intermediaries and—directly or indirectly—Brazilian or other foreign companies that have paid bribes.
The Brazilian bribery scandal affects Switzerland’s financial centre and its anti-money-laundering strategy, with result that the OAG has a close interest in contributing fully to the resolution of the scandal through its own investigations,” the OAG stated. “Attorney General Lauber, therefore, discussed opportunities for mutual support in the ongoing criminal proceedings with his counterpart, Janot. In a first step, the OAG, with the agreement of two account holders, has arranged for the release of over USD$120 million in frozen assets and for the assets to be returned to their rightful owners.
The Swiss criminal proceedings will continue with the aim of holding the perpetrators accountable and establishing the origin of the remaining frozen assets. To this end, the OAG has requested mutual legal assistance from Brazil and the Netherlands. These countries have likewise filed requests for mutual legal assistance in Switzerland, which the OAG is currently processing.