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Banking authorities to publish names of Holocaust-era accounts

The Swiss banking authorities have decided to release the names of the owners of 26,000 dormant accounts dating back to the Holocaust era. The decision should now pave the way for compensation payments to Holocaust victims.

This content was published on March 30, 2000 - 10:21

The Swiss banking authorities have decided to release the names of the owners of 26,000 dormant accounts dating back to the Holocaust era. The decision should now pave the way for compensation payments to Holocaust victims from a settlement reached between Swiss banks and international Jewish organisations in 1998.

The Federal Banking Commission was asked to publish the names of the account holders last December by the Volcker Commission, following a three-year audit of dormant accounts.

The Volcker Commission said the 26,000 accounts could be linked to Holocaust victims, and that Switzerland's banking secrecy regulations should be lifted to help the search for the account owners or their heirs.

The list of account-holders is the third to be published by the banks. The first two were published in 1997 after an internal audit conducted by the banks themselves.

But, under pressure from international Jewish organisations, the Volcker Commission was set up to carry out an independent inquiry. The Commission was chaired by the former head of the United States federal reserve, Paul Volcker, and included representatives of the Swiss banks and Jewish groups.

The Swiss authorities had been criticised for the time taken to make the decision on publishing the latest list. The delay has held up payments from the $1.25 billion settlement reached by Swiss banks with Jewish organisations in 1998, to settle all claims against them dating back to the Holocaust era.

This is because the value of any Holocaust-era accounts identified through the publication of the 26,000 accounts will be deducted from the global settlement.

The Swiss Bankers' Association welcomed the Banking Federation's decision, and said it believed the distribution of money to its rightful owners would be accelerated as a result.

swissinfo with agencies

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