United States lawyer Edward Fagan has requested the consolidation of all cases against Swiss banks for their role in helping finance the Apartheid regime.This content was published on August 10, 2002 - 01:14
Speaking at a Manhattan federal court, Fagan, who is representing victims of South Africa's Apartheid government, initiated a class-action lawsuit on Friday.
US District Judge Richard Casey, who is presiding over the case, adjourned the case instructing both sides to negotiate with each other during the break.
The class-action lawsuit seeks billions of dollars in damages from corporations and financial institutions, including Switzerland's banking giants UBS and Credit Suisse.
If Fagan's request is approved, all cases will be represented as one to Casey. Analysts say the move will allow him to put together a unified team of highly competent lawyers increasing his chances of a win.
Lawyers representing the banks want the suits handled separately, if at all. On September 13, they will submit a request to have the case dropped.
During the hearing, Casey reproached Fagan for giving television interviews before appearing in court. "You have bad manners and should learn to exercise some restraint, some professionalism," Casey said to Fagan.
"Otherwise you will have some difficult days ahead of you in this courtroom," he said.
Lawyers representing UBS and the US bank Citigroup accused Fagan of using the court proceedings as a publicity campaign, saying his actions were hurting their clients' reputations.
"We have won, we will be here again in 14 days," Fagan said after the hearings.
Fagan filed the suit against the banks in June accusing them of propping up the Apartheid government by continuing to lend it money after international sanctions were imposed in 1985.
Fagan has been head-to-head with Swiss banks before. In 1998 he won a $1.25 billion settlement for Holocaust victims and their dependents.
On Monday, Jubilee 2000, a South African organisation representing Apartheid victims, parted company with Fagan because they disapproved of the way he represented their interests.
swissinfo with agencies