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Deiss holds talks in Liechtenstein

Switzerland's foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, is paying a one-day visit to Liechtenstein today. He's expected to address the neighbouring principality's record in providing legal assistance to Swiss prosecutors.

This content was published on January 24, 2000 - 10:00

Switzerland's foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, is paying a one-day visit to Liechtenstein today during which he's expected to address the neighbouring principality's record in providing legal assistance to Swiss prosecutors and the question of money laundering.

A foreign ministry spokesman, Ruedi Christen, confirmed that issues concerning the two countries' financial centres would be at the top of the agenda of Deiss's talks with his counterpart, Andrea Willi, and the prime minister, Mario Frick. However, he gave no further details.

The visit comes at a time when Liechtenstein is coming under growing international pressure. A German secret service report, details of which were revealed by the German news magazine, Der Spiegel, last year, accused leading personalities of collaborating with organised crime. Heinz Frommelt, the justice minister, is travelling to Berlin on Monday to discuss the accusations.

The legal authorities in Liechtenstein have also been accused of not acting on requests for legal assistance from abroad. Frommelt says Vaduz is aware of Switzerland's concerns in this respect, and that it was working on revising the law on legal assistance.

"It's not the first time that Switzerland has highlighted that," he told Swiss Radio International on Thursday. "It's not the first time that we have discussed this matter. Switzerland is informed about the progress of the new law. The position of Switzerland is well understood in Liechtenstein and we will change the law in accordance to the wishes of Switzerland."

Among the leading critics is Geneva's cantonal prosecutor, Bernard Bertossa. "It's not unusual for a magistrate in Liechtenstein to ask us to provide proof of what we allege in a request for legal assistance, a demand that's totally out of proportion with the European convention on judicial cooperation," he said.

He added that the authorities in Liechtenstein were unwilling to freeze accounts even temporarily.

"That entitles us, along with the authorities in other countries and cantons, to say that Liechtenstein is bottom of the class for international cooperation, even with Switzerland. So Swiss judges don't provide any favours in return to Liechtenstein," Bertossa added.

The talks will also address the opening of a Swiss diplomatic mission to Liechtenstein, which will be based in Berne, instead of Vaduz.


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