A document revealed by whistleblowing internet site WikiLeaks appears to show that Switzerland struck a deal with the United States in 2009 to help embattled bank UBS.
A “secret” US dispatch published by Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper alleged that the Swiss government had said it would shut down the activities of the Swedish firm Colenco which was believed to be violating sanctions in Iran.
Last year’s Swiss president, Doris Leuthard, had also reaffirmed to the US that Switzerland was prepared to accept “several detainees” from the US prison at Guantanamo Bay.
Leuthard is said to have linked both to the achievement of a political settlement in the case of Swiss banking giant UBS. The minister denied the claims on Thursday.
“There is no direct connection between the UBS dossier and the acceptance of detainees from Guantanamo as well as the activities of the Colenco company in Switzerland,” she told journalists.
“As you know, the government mentioned its willingness to accept Guantanamo detainees on January 21, 2009 after US President Barack Obama had announced the closure of the base.”
She added that Colenco was closed as a result of a United Nations sanctions procedure carried out by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs. However, Leuthard's ministry pointed out on Thursday afternoon that Colenco's Iran activities had in fact been suspended, but not stopped altogether.
Meanwhile, Colenco said on Thursday that it had never been involved in uranium enrichment in Iran. As it told the Swiss News Agency, its business there involves pumped storage power plants.
UBS agreed to pay $780 million (SFr744.5 million) to the US in February 2009 for helping US clients avoid taxes. The US later demanded that it divulge the names of 52,000 Americans suspected of using secret offshore accounts at the bank to dodge taxes.
In the end, after a settlement and a treaty approved by the Swiss parliament, a total of about 4,500 customer files were handed over to the US authorities.
Switzerland in March 2010 accepted two Uighur brothers from China who had been Guantanamo detainees.
swissinfo.ch and agencies