Briefing Document / Feb. 7, 2011

Press advisory: Global Witness spokespeople available for comment on banking of politicians’ funds

Following recent events in Egypt, Tunisia, Ivory Coast and Haiti, Global Witness specialists are available for comment and analysis on how senior politicians access the financial system. 

The unrest in Tunisia, Egypt and Ivory Coast, as well as the return of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier to Haiti, has led to recent reports about how political leaders, as well as their family members, may be able to stash personal fortunes in safe havens.

  • France has opened a preliminary investigation into funds allegedly linked to former President Ben Ali of Tunisia, and has reportedly seized Ben Ali’s “family jet”.
  • The European Union (EU) has frozen the assets of Ben Ali and his wife prompted by suspicions that the two were responsible for the “misappropriation of state funds”.  
  • The EU has also frozen the assets of Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast in an effort to put pressure on him to cede power to Alassane Ouatarra, who is recognised internationally as having won presidential elections in November.
  • Switzerland has frozen accounts said to belong to Ben Ali, as well as those linked to Duvalier, the former leader of Haiti.
  • Concerns have been raised that Mubarak and his family may have significant offshore deposits.

Much of the comment so far has been on the question of whether any of these alleged assets need to be, or can be returned to their country of origin. What is receiving less attention is the question of whether any of these assets should have been accepted by foreign banks in the first place.

Global Witness has undertaken numerous investigations into how corrupt politicians have accused the financial system using western banks and intermediaries. Our latest report, International Thief Thief, detailed how two corrupt Nigerian politicians used British banks, including Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC, to sustain a luxury lifestyle in Britain. 

Global Witness experts are able to provide information on the methods used by senior politicians to access the financial system, as well as on the role played by major financial institutions in facilitating this.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact

Robert Palmer +44 (0)20 7492 5860 or [email protected]

Anthea Lawson +44(0)20 7492 5882 or [email protected]  

Oliver Courtney +44 (0)7815 731 889 or [email protected]