Are Swiss Banks Really Returning Africa’s Stolen Loot?

If you want to know what U.S. President elect Donald Trump thinks of African governance, read his tweets.

“Every penny of the $7 billion going to Africa as per Obama will be stolen—corruption is rampant!” Trump tweeted. Clearly he seems to have a pessimistic view of the continent, Business Daily reported.

That doesn’t make Trump right, but he has managed to tap in to a fear shared by some African leaders in countries including Tanzania that some local officials and business people are hiding ill-gotten money in Swiss bank accounts.

Opposition lawmakers in Tanzania have long criticized authorities for not taking action against officials accused of hiding their wealth abroad, AP reported.

Tanzania’s foreign minister announced earlier this month that the country has signed a memo of understanding with Switzerland to help recover money illegally stashed in Swiss banks by Tanzanians.

Since being elected in 2015, Tanzania’s new President John “The Bulldozer” Magufuli has been on a mission to stop wasteful government spending and official corruption.

Benno Ndulu, the central bank governor, said the agreement with Switzerland will help recover some of the money lost through corruption, AP reported.

Switzerland is trying to shake off the stereotype as a safe haven for stolen money and other ill-gotten gains, said Peter Fabricius, a consultant for the Pretoria-based policy think tank, Institute for Security Studies Africa (ISS).

To some extent it’s succeeding, with some success stories of money traced and recovered, ISS reported:

Switzerland’s (had) success in recovering and returning US$800 million, which the notoriously corrupt Nigerian military dictator Sani Abacha stashed away in Swiss bank accounts during the 1990s. After Abacha’s death in 1998, the new Nigerian government gave Switzerland full legal cooperation in persuading its courts to unfreeze Abacha’s accounts.

But other world centers are quickly fill the vacuum including Dubai, a highly secretive, new financial center, said David Lewis, head of the South African NGO Corruption Watch. Lewis predicts that many unexplained recent visits to Dubai by members of the South African government and its associates will eventually reveal something nefarious. “It if walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck,” he said, according to an ISS account.