Switzerland to return $21m to Angola

Authorities will lift blocking orders on four bank accounts and return $21-million to Angola for use in humanitarian projects, the Swiss Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

The money was frozen in connection with a Swiss investigation of French businessman Pierre Falcone, who was suspected of helping Angolan officials embezzle part of the African country’s debt repayment to the Russian Federation.

The case was closed in December 2004, after it was established that no irregularities occurred in the settlement of the debt.

Justice authorities cleared Falcone of all charges that he was part of a criminal organisation operating in Geneva, Moscow and the Angolan capital, Luanda.

Switzerland has agreed with Angola that the money would be used for humanitarian projects to help the African nation’s people.

“The funds shall be used for projects that will benefit the most vulnerable sections of Angolan society,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The projects selected will be in priority areas such as reconstruction, the establishment of hospital infrastructure, basic professional training, water supply and local capacity building, notably in the reintegration of displaced persons,” it said.

The Foreign Ministry did not disclose to whom the bank accounts belonged.

The Swiss investigation concluded that the restructuring of Angola’s total $2,9-billion debt to the Russian Federation—in which Falcone played an active role through his company Abalone Investments—was a legitimate transaction, and that no criminal offence was committed.

The 82% debt cut eased the burden for Angola, ravaged by almost three decades of civil war. Russia received repayments of money owed by the African nation since the days of the Soviet Union.

Angola’s civil war—which killed at least one million people—ended in 2002. - Sapa-AP