New pressure on Swiss to solve mystery of Nazi gold
Did Swiss banks help Nazis launder loot?
September 18, 1996
Web posted at: 7:15 p.m. EDT
BERN, Switzerland (CNN) -- Switzerland's Foreign Minister
Wednesday said his country will reexamine a mystery a half
century old: the fate of gold stashed by Nazi Germany during
World War II.
"We are trying to look for a clear definition of the facts,
making them as clear as possible, although they lie now 50
years behind us," said Flavio Cotti, Swiss Foreign Minister.
The announcement, in conjunction with British Foreign
Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, comes amid new allegations that
Swiss banks played a key role in helping Nazi Germany to
stash and launder valuables, including gold, plundered from
Jews and victims in countries it invaded.
Last week, the British Foreign office issued a report that
has revived claims that Nazi Germany funneled to Switzerland
some $500 million of gold looted from National Treasuries --
and German Jews.
Switzerland has said all legal obligations for the return of
Nazi gold had been settled by a 1946 agreement with the
Allied powers to pay them a settlement of 250 million Swiss
francs, or about $60 million.
That's barely one tenth of the amount that some claim the
Nazis actually deposited in Swiss banks.
Swiss officials said Wednesday they will create a commission
of experts to study the extent and fate of both Nazi and
Jewish riches deposited in neutral Switzerland during the
It's a move that was endorsed by British Foreign Secretary
Malcolm Rifkind, who was in Bern Wednesday for talks with
"I believe that the study, if it is established, if it goes
ahead, will be able to answer many of the questions that are
being asked," Rifkin said.
The commission will have to reckon with Switzerland's
famously secretive banking laws.
Swiss law generally requires banks to keep records for only
ten years. And in many cases banks can close accounts
unclaimed after 20 years.
"Generally speaking, the rule is that any account that lies
dormant in a Swiss bank for 20 years, no deposits no
withdrawals...the money reverts to the bank. In other words,
they keep it," said Jeffrey Robinson, author of The
The Swiss parliament must give final backing to legislation
creating the historical commission, and Cotti said he expects
that will happen.
What happened to the Nazi gold is a delicate question in
Switzerland. The Swiss National Bank has acknowledged that it
was too trusting of Germany in buying $1.2 billion Swiss
francs ($300 million at 1946 exchange rates) worth of gold
between 1938 and 1945.
Still unclear is whether the amounts cited are in U.S.
dollars or Swiss francs, a question Rifkin said is "precisely
one of the issues the investigation will look at."
CNN Correspondent Vicki Barker and Reuters contributed to this report.
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