The Swiss food giant, Nestlé, says it is to contribute SFr25 million ($14.6 million) to the settlement between Swiss banks and Jewish organisations over Holocaust-era claims.This content was published on August 28, 2000 - 17:22
Nestlé said it was contributing to the settlement because some of the companies, which it owns, had used slave labour during the Second World War.
In a statement, the company said: "...some corporations of the Nestlé group that were active in countries controlled by the [Nazi] regime employed forced labourers."
It added that its participation in the $1.25 billion (SFr2 billion) settlement would free it from the threat of future litigation from Holocaust era claimants.
Nestlé has not admitted to using forced labour - it says the companies concerned were only acquired after the war - but said it is taking part in the settlement because it felt morally obliged to do so.
"As the legal successor of such corporations, Nestlé nevertheless accepts its moral responsibility to help alleviate human suffering, all the more so since this injustice was committed in the company's domain."
It added that its German and Austrian subsidiaries would be taking part in separate settlements agreed by those countries.
The announcement comes just days after a deadline expired for Swiss companies to take part in the settlement. Firms that used slave labour during the Second World War were given until last Friday to join the agreement in exchange for protection from any future legal action.
The 1998 settlement between Swiss banking giants, UBS and Credit Suisse, and Jewish groups was formally approved last month by US district court judge, Edward Korman, paving the way for a distribution plan to be drawn up by September 11.
Billed as an all-Switzerland accord, it covers liabilities against the two big banks as well as the Swiss National Bank, other smaller Swiss banks, some tiers of government and Swiss companies over their subsidiaries' use of slave or forced labour in Nazi Germany.
The accord also covers claims against Swiss insurers for failing to honour life insurance policies. Swiss insurance companies, Baloise, Swiss Re, Swiss Life and Helvetia Patria, recently contributed a further $50 million to cover claims against them.
Payments to claimants are not expected to start until the end of the year. Former slave labourers, war refugees turned away from Swiss borders, Gypsies, homosexuals and Jehovah's Witnesses could also benefit.
swissinfo with agencies
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