CHF 53 million returned to Aeroflot

Berne. Following an application for legal assistance from Russia, the Federal Examining Magistrate responsible ordered assets totalling approximately CHF 53 million, which had been confiscated in Switzerland, to be returned to the defrauded Russian airline Aeroflot. The sum was transferred to an Aeroflot account in Zurich today.

The Russian Federal Attorney General’s Office had applied for legal assistance from Switzerland in 1999 as part of proceedings concerning the embezzlement of assets amounting to millions of roubles from the airline Aeroflot. The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland repeatedly provided legal assistance to Russia by gathering evidence and freezing various Swiss bank accounts. In addition, it started a criminal investigation into money laundering and corporate fraud.

After those responsible were convicted in Russia, the Russian Federal Attorney General’s Office made a further request for legal assistance in 2007 concerning the return of the assets frozen in Switzerland to the defrauded airline. The Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) delegated the execution of this request to the Federal Examining Magistrate, who was already handling a preliminary investigation.

Request deferred until Swiss criminal proceedings completed

However, the Federal Examining Magistrate in charge of the Aeroflot case initially suspended the processing of this application pending the completion of the criminal proceedings by the Office of the Attorney General against one of the accused. These proceedings, in which Aeroflot was involved as a private litigant, also concerned the return of assets. In its rulings dated 11 July and 27 October 2008 (PC.2007.12), the Federal Criminal Court found the accused guilty of abetting qualified misappropriation and ordered the confiscation of assets frozen in Switzerland in the amount of approximately CHF 53 million for the account of the Confederation. This amount corresponded to the loss for which the airline Aeroflot was claiming compensation. The Federal Criminal Court did not rule on whether the defrauded airline was entitled to receive the entire sum and instead referred Aeroflot to the civil courts concerning this question.

Compensation entitlement clarified in Russian proceedings

The Federal Examining Magistrate, for her part, concluded that the application for legal assistance made in 2007 met the requirements for returning the assets to the defrauded airline. In particular, the Russian application was – as stipulated in Art. 74a para. 3 of the Mutual Assistance Act – based on a legally valid and enforceable judgement by the applicant state. In this ruling, the competent Russian court had convicted those responsible of fraud and ordered the payment of approximately CHF 53 million to the defrauded airline. The Federal Examining Magistrate thus ordered the return of the assets confiscated in Switzerland on 7 July 2010.

The FOJ, in its capacity as the supervisory authority in matters of legal assistance, supported this decision. The Russian Federal Attorney General’s Office agreed to the direct return of the assets to Aeroflot. Once the decision became legally effective, the sum could be transferred to the Russian airline’s account, and this was done today.

Last modification 27.08.2010

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