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COST OF LIVING

Switzerland searches for owner of 180,000 francs worth of gold bars left on train

Are you missing 180,000 francs (€168,000) worth of gold bars after a train journey through central Switzerland? If so, you might be in luck.

Switzerland searches for owner of 180,000 francs worth of gold bars left on train
Photo: Pexels/Free to use

Swiss authorities have announced they are searching for the owner or owners of a set of gold bars worth 180,000 francs (€168,000/$US190,000). 

The bars were left on a train from St Gallen to Lucerne in October 2019. The bars were found unattended by a member of train staff and brought to lost property – upon which SBB officers realised the find.  

After an eight-month private search for the gold – including looking at surveillance cameras throughout the journey – Lucerne authorities have gone public to try and find the rightful owner. 

But if you’ve suddenly realised your gold cache is a little light, don’t fear. The Lucerne Prosecutors Office have given prospective gold seekers a five-year window in which they can claim ownership. 

In an interview with Swiss news organisation 20 Minutes, the Lucerne Prosecutors Office says they’ve already received several claims for ownership. 

Spokesperson Simon Kopp said: “We’ve received a lot of reports and we have to check them now.”

Kopp said authorities would go through all claims they believed to be legitimate – not including the hundreds of hopeful claimants on social media. 

We're unsure how hard the authorities are looking however – as Switzerland has a 'finders keepers' law which snaps into place after five years. 

Although possession of gold bars is relatively rare – even in Switzerland – Kopp said determining the original owner of the bars just by evaluating them is impossible. 

No loss or theft of gold bars has been recorded in Switzerland either, reports the Zürichsee newspaper

Switzerland's forgetful golden problem

Remarkably, it is not the first time a large cache of gold bars has been found in Switzerland. 

In 2012, 100,000 francs worth of gold was found in a field in Klingau, Aargau by employees of the village town council. 

After a five-year search with no luck, the gold became the property of the village – under the same finders keepers law. 

An investigation failed to find the owner, despite an initial lead pointing to a Bosnian man who was in prison when the treasure was discovered.

READ: Swiss village gets to keep abandoned gold bars 

But ownership was not proven, nor was there anything to connect the gold bars to a crime.

Shortly before the five year deadline, two people turned up to stake a claim on the treasure, but after a police investigation, their claims were judged unfounded, police said.

As reported at the time, the employees were entitled to 10 percent of the total value of the find. 

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COST OF LIVING

Can I have a fire in my backyard or courtyard in Switzerland?

The winter months are on their way and the weather is getting colder. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, can you light a fire?

White marshmallows toast over a fire
If you want to toast marshmallows in your backyard in Switzerland this winter, first make sure it's OK. Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Even if you own a property, the rules for what you can and cannot do in Switzerland can be relatively restrictive. 

As we covered in the following article, laws or tenancy rules can prevent you from doing several types of activities in your own backyard, including felling trees or washing your car. 

You can also be prevented from certain activities on particular days. For instance, rules, bylaws and tenancy arrangements may prevent you from mowing your lawn or hanging out your laundry on a Sunday. 

READ MORE: What am I allowed to do in my backyard or apartment courtyard in Switzerland?

As the weather gets colder, you might be tempted to stock up the fire pit, fire basket or fire bowl with wood and set it alight. 

The rules for lighting fires are also relatively complex. What you are allowed to do will depend on your canton, your tenancy arrangement and the type of fire. 

Can I light a fire on my own property in Switzerland? 

If you’re living in one of the few Swiss houses to have a fireplace, then you are presumably allowed to use it, unless tenancy regulations prevent it at certain times. 

You are also usually allowed to have a barbecue or grill either on your balcony or in your backyard, provided the noise and smoke is not excessive. 

READ MORE: Can I have a barbecue on my balcony in Switzerland?

Whether or not you are allowed to have a fire in your backyard however will depend on the rules in your canton. 

You are generally prohibited from burning any waste in Switzerland, other than typical forest or garden waste (i.e. wood, grass, twigs, sticks and leaves). 

That however can also be restricted at certain times of the year.

In Zurich, for instance, fires in backyards are only permitted from March to October, meaning that you will need to find other ways to stay warm in the winter months in Switzerland’s most populous canton. 

Even if lighting fires is permitted, you may want to check with the rules of your rental contract to see if you are technically allowed a fire. 

What about fires in the forest or open parks? 

A campfire might also sound like a nice way to spend a winter evening, but this may be restricted or completely prohibited depending on the circumstance. 

There is no federal ban on fires in forests and other outdoor areas, provided you are not burning waste (other than garden waste etc) and you are not producing excessive emissions. 

The rules are the same on August 1st, Swiss National Day, where special bonfires usually require a permit. 

Note that there are special rules for burning old Christmas trees, which is prevented by law. 

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