No investigation of corrupt Russia-Angola debt deal

By Richard Lee | February 05th, 2014

So it’s over. There will be no further investigation – let alone prosecution – in Switzerland of the individuals and companies involved in a massive and extremely dodgy Russian-Angolan debt deal.

The news that activists in Angola and Britain had been fearing came on Monday when the Swiss Attorney General announced that no further action would be taken in relation to the criminal complaint that was filed last April by Angola’s Maos Livres (Clean Hands) and Corruption Watch UK.

While the Attorney General issued a statement this week after apparently completing ‘preliminary investigations’ but the writing has been on the wall since the end of last year when Arcadi Gaydamak – one of the prime beneficiaries of the dubious deal – was not interrogated while in Swiss custody on an unrelated issue.

As the Attorney General’s office states, “the criminal complaint was based on a newly published report about the Angolan-Russian debt agreement called ‘The Corrupt Angolan-Russian Debt Deal’, from which the complainants drew new information” relating to the ‘Angolagate’ scandal – information that the complaints believe justifies re-opening proceedings against the group of individuals who were involved in this deal - namely Angolan officials, owners of an intermediary company and Swiss bank employees - and conducting investigations into allegations of corruption.

However, the Attorney General made it clear that the “Swiss Federal Prosecution Authorities do not share this belief and…are of the opinion that the complaint does not contain any new information that would justify a re-opening of proceedings.”

In addition, the statement argued that it was also not worth pursuing the case because it was too complex to be completed before the statute of limitations comes into effect in July 2015 and that it would only be possible to investigate activities from May-July 2000 since ‘bribery of foreign officials’ was anchored in Swiss law as a criminal offence on 1st May 2000.

It is yet a serious blow – perhaps the final one – to hopes that those responsible for looting the Angolan coffers will be brought to book.

As the report makes clear, over US$750 million ended up in the pockets of senior Angolan government officials (including $36.25 million that was tracked down to Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos) and in the bank accounts of dubious and unnecessary middlemen (such as Gaydamak). Swiss banks also played a critical role in the whole saga.

The Swiss authorities had an opportunity to investigate this huge corruption scandal more closely and give those involved something to fear. But instead, they have taken the easy way out – leaving the beneficiaries of the deal to enjoy their ill-gotten gains and the people of Angola to imagine what could have been built with the US$750 million that were pillaged from the nation's coffers.

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