A Swiss metals refinery at the centre of investigations into the import of gold from Yugoslavia has denied that bullion it processed was linked to the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic.
The Geneva-based MKS Finance SA handles hundreds of tonnes of precious metals each year. In a statement on Friday, it said it followed strict rules on identifying the origins of metals it accepts for processing.
"MKS Finance SA was actively involved in the investigation conducted in Switzerland to assess the exact origin of the gold deliveries made to Switzerland by a Yugoslav metallurgical complex," the statement said.
It said these checks "did not establish any link between the gold that has transited through the MKS refinery and Milosevic or any individuals or companies related to Milosevic".
The statement also said the federal authorities and investigators in Geneva had lifted a freeze on funds involved in the case.
On Wednesday, the Swiss economics ministry confirmed that it was investigating the import of 173 kilogrammes of gold bullion suspected to have come from Milosevic. It said it was checking whether the delivery could have contravened sanctions imposed on Yugoslavia between June 1999 and October 2000.
According to customs, four shipments of unrefined gold, worth a total of SFr1.8 million ($1.09 million), reached Switzerland from Yugoslavia between September and November last year. They said the gold was refined in canton Ticino and then sold on the open market.
The economics ministry announcement came as the prosecutor's office in Belgrade launched an investigation into reports that Milosevic had transferred an identical amount of gold out of Yugoslavia over the same period.
Yugoslav customs officials have said the gold did not belong to the Yugoslav state and proceeds from its sale did not go to the former president. The head of the Yugoslav customs service, Vladan Begovic, said the gold import originated from sources outside of Yugoslavia.
This statement contradicts earlier reports, which suggested Milosevic had sent the gold to Switzerland and later deposited proceeds from the sale in accounts in Greece and Cyprus.
Swiss authorities have confirmed the gold import would only have been illegal if proceeds from its sale had made their way back to accounts belonging to Milosevic and his family or state companies.
swissinfo with agencies