Ali Abdullah Saleh, president of Yemen for more than three decades, can no longer be worried. He was assassinated on December 4, 2017 in Sanaa by his former Houthi allies. According to a judgment of the Federal Court of May 19, 2020, UBS, the largest bank of the Confederation, would have transferred twice in 2011 from Yemen, at “the time of a revolution in the country in question (…)”, approximately “$ 65 million for a bank located in Singapore for a family member in question”. As usual, the Federal Court does not reveal the name of the beneficiary, but specifies that it is a person “subject to the asset freezing and travel prohibition measures” set out by the Council of UN security regarding Yemen.
The Gotham City investigation site reveals that a first investigation was opened by the federal prosecutor’s office in April 2014 against the former president of Yemen, and against unknown persons, for suspicions of money laundering. It was followed in July 2017 by a new investigation into money laundering “against strangers, in connection with men of power in Yemen”. In addition, Finma, the federal financial market supervisory authority, has also opened proceedings against UBS for failing to report this more than suspicious transaction. The more so as this operation, relating to 65 million dollars, intervenes at the time of the Arab Spring, while other Arab heads of state (Egypt, Tunisia) are implicated for “suspicions of money laundering”.
Temptation to close your eyes
The 1997 Money Laundering Law (LBA) forces Swiss banks to ask questions. And especially to ask people exposed, like heads of state, when land on their accounts (or those of their entourage) amounts to seven or eight digits. But, apparently, for certain Swiss establishments, the temptation to close their eyes as in the past seems too strong, despite the risks. It is true that managing the accounts of a dictator or a mafia is clearly more profitable than looking into the accounts of an honest taxpayer. Tyrants and money launderers rarely dispute the amount of bank charges and account maintenance.
This operation between Yemen and Singapore ultimately only covers $ 65 million. The fraud, if it is proven, has nothing comparable with the scandal related to the 45,161 French taxpayers who camouflaged a little more than 11 billion euros in the coffers of UBS (for this, the Swiss bank was condemned by the Paris tribunal de grande instance, in 2019, to a fine of 3.7 billion euros. She appealed). On the other hand, morally, it seems very difficult, if not impossible, to justify such a transfer to Singapore when Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world, suffered a dreadful civil war, causing tens of thousands of victims and millions of displaced people. A war that caused the collapse of institutions and the economy.
Between 32 and 60 billion raised and diverted
The letter of 20 February 2015 addressed to the President of the Security Council by the group of experts on Yemen states that Ali Abdullah Saleh, president of Yemen for thirty-three years, “is suspected of having amassed, during his years of power between 32 and 60 billion dollars, most of which would have been transferred abroad under false names or through nominees. These assets would take the form of real estate, cash, stocks, gold and other high-value assets. ”
Read also Switzerland delivers 40,000 fraudsters to France
Former President of Yemen was not only one of the greatest kleptomaniacs on the planet, the group of experts on Yemen also evokes close ties “between Ali Abdullah Saleh, his family and Al-Qaeda on the peninsula Arabic (Aqpa) ”. The 59-page report cites in particular Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, former Minister of Defense. He claims to have seen an Aqpa official in the office of former President Saleh. However, the Minister of Defense was carrying out an offensive against Al Qaeda in Abyan Province at the time.
But, at the rate that Swiss justice is going, UBS should be able to sleep on its own two ears. Especially since the big bank obtained from the Federal Court, on May 19, the return of three binders, seized in the context of this procedure, containing information on customers in Yemen …
Read also Switzerland: 5 months suspended prison sentence for laundering 35 million dollars
Read also Swiss bank stashed profits in Guernsey