Swiss banks have found $3.4 million in assets stashed away by ousted Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko, far short of the billions the rebels who toppled him claim he has.
Mobutu, 32-year dictator of the country that has been renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo by its new leaders, fled to Morocco last month as rebels led by Laurent Kabila entered Kinshasa, the capital. Switzerland froze Mobutu’s assets hours after his departure.
Mobutu’s Swiss assets do include a $5.5 million, 30-room mansion in Lausanne. But the $7.7 billion Congo Justice Minister Celestin Lwangi alleged Mobutu had squirreled away were not found, and Swiss officials said there was no more to be found in their vaults.
“As the banking supervisor, basically we are satisfied,” said Federal Banking Commission deputy director Daniel Zuberbuehler. “I don’t think we can order any other search.”
“There are no billions,” Zuberbuehler said. “It would be nice if Mobutu had billions here, but he probably has spent the money.”
Most of the funds, Zuberbuehler said, were at one bank in two “fat accounts.” Jean Ziegler, a Socialist member of Switzerland’s Parliament and a fierce critic of the Swiss banking industry’s ongoing crisis over Holocaust assets, accused the banks of lying “to defend their client Mobutu.”
“This is grotesque,” he said. “This is a financial empire and it is here in Switzerland.”
Congo’s new government wants the funds returned to the country, but Swiss banking officials say the process could take years.
CNN.com, June 3, 1997