Holocaust victims paid back by Swiss banks

All of the $1.3 billion Holocaust restitution fund created by Swiss banks in 1998 has been returned to victims, a judge involved in the case said in an interview published on Thursday.

Fifteen years after Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse agreed to return assets from dormant bank accounts belonging to Holocaust victims, US judge Edward Korman, who oversaw the lawsuits that led to the massive $1.25-billion settlement, said the entire amount, plus interest, had been doled out.

The website of the Claims Restitution Tribunal, which has been responsible for transferring the settlement funds, on Thursday simply stated that it had finished its task and had closed its offices at the end of 2012.

The repayment process, which started in 2001, "was very difficult and time-consuming," Korman told the Swiss German-language Beobachter magazine in an interview published on its website.

"We made an incredible number of inquiries, and the destruction of bank records (during World War II) didn't help" in tracking down the account-holders and their families, he said.

He pointed out that in one case investigators had only had one newspaper report to rely on to determine the existence of an account.

The 1998 settlement fund was the result of a class-action lawsuit launched in the United States by Holocaust survivors and victims' families alleging that Swiss banks were making it unnecessarily difficult to access dormant accounts by, for instance, requiring death certificates which typically do not exist for Holocaust victims.

Korman noted that the Swiss banks for decades clung to the dormant accounts and had continued deducting fees from them.
 "It wasn't just one bank . . . it was a conspiracy," he told Beobachter.
 According to the ATS news agency, more than 452,000 Holocaust victims and their descendants have received compensation through the fund.

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Probe unearths second spying case at Credit Suisse

An internal Credit Suisse probe confirmed Monday that a second executive had been spied on, following earlier revelations that the bank's former head of wealth management was tailed by private investigators.

Probe unearths second spying case at Credit Suisse
Photo: Depositphotos

But Switzerland's number two bank maintained that just one senior leader, who has since been forced out, was entirely to blame for both incidents and that rest of the top brass had not been aware of the activities. 

Releasing the investigation conducted by the Homburger law firm, Credit Suisse said that “it has been confirmed that Peter Goerke, who was a Member of the Executive Board at the time, was placed under observation by a third-party firm on behalf of Credit Suisse for a period of several days in February 2019.”

The probe was launched following media reports last week that spying at Credit Suisse ran deeper than one case.

The banking giant was shaken by the discovery last September that surveillance had been ordered on star banker and former wealth management chief Iqbal Khan.

READ: Credit Suisse boss resigns following spying scandal

Kahn was tailed after he jumped ship to competitor UBS, sparking fears he was preparing to poach employees and clients.

That revelation came after Khan confronted the private investigators tailing him, leading to a fight in the heart of Zurich. Khan pressed charges.

An initial investigation by Homburger blamed former chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee, who stepped down, but found no indication chief executive Tidjane Thiam was involved.

The probe results released Monday echoed those findings, concluding that Bouee “issued the mandate to have Peter Goerke put under observation.”

“As was the case with Iqbal Khan, this observation was carried out via an intermediary,” it said, stressing that Bouee “did not respond truthfully” during the initial investigation “when asked about any additional observations and did not disclose the observation of Peter Goerke.”

The new investigation also did not find indications that Thiam or others in the board or management “had any knowledge of the observation of Peter Goerke until media reported on it,” the statement said.

“The Board of Directors considers the observation of Peter Goerke to be unacceptable and completely inappropriate” it said, adding that it had issued an apology to Goerke.

It added that “safeguards” were already in place to avoid future similar misconduct. Switzerland's market watchdog FINMA meanwhile said last week that it was “appointing an independent auditor to investigate Credit Suisse in the context of observation activities.”

“This investigator will clarify the relevant corporate governance questions, particularly in relation to the observation activities,” a statement said Friday.