By Julia Crawford with input from Markus Spoerndli
Jan 4, 2019 – 17:00
Reports in 2018 that alleged Cameroon’s president Paul Biya runs his country from a Geneva hotel raise questions whether official Switzerland can intervene in such cases.
Neutral Switzerland, and international Geneva in particular, have long been known as a playground for the rich. But should the Swiss clamp down when some of these people, like Biya, are linked to regimes with dubious democratic records in corrupt countries?
According to a report in early 2018 by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the Cameroonian president has spent at least 1,645 days on private visits abroad since he came to power in 1982, and Geneva is by far his favourite destination. The Hotel Intercontinental in Geneva with its swimming pool and view of Mont Blanc is the residence of choice for the Cameroonian presidential couple.
“According to reporters’ conservative calculations – based on publicly available hotel room prices and a compilation of entourage lists – the total hotel bill of Biya and his colleagues for one stay at Intercontinental adds up to around $40,000 per day,” says OCCRP. “At that rate, the cost of all of the president’s private trips (1,645 days in total) would add up to about $65 million since he came to power – and that’s not counting food, entertainment and the rental of a private plane.”