The Swiss authorities say they have begun examining documents from the commodities trader, Glencore International, which is suspected of making illegal profits from the sale of Iraqi oil.
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) on Monday confirmed that it had begun studying documents requested from the company following a United Nations appeal last month for a Swiss investigation.
The UN alleges that Glencore made a profit of $3 million (SFr5.3 million) from sales of Iraqi oil, but violated the terms of the oil-for-food programme by failing to pass on the money to the UN. Under the programme, proceeds must be handed to the UN, which uses the money to buy food and medicines for the people of Iraq.
"We received a response from the company last week and are now in the process of analysing these documents," said Roland Vock of Seco's export control and sanctions policy division.
Vock said that once these "substantial" documents had been studied the department would prepare a response to the UN. He said Switzerland would also make a decision then on whether to launch a formal investigation.
"Everything depends on what we find out," Vock said. "If we don't get all the answers we're looking for, we will ask Glencore for further explanations."
Glencore was formerly owned by the controversial United States financier, Marc Rich, who fled to Switzerland in 1984 to avoid being prosecuted for tax evasion. He was pardoned by the former US president, Bill Clinton, at the beginning of the year.
swissinfo with agencies
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