The Swiss National Bank (SNB) has been named in a class action suit before the US Federal District Court in San Francisco. The plaintiffs are victims of Croatia's Ustashi regime during the Second World War.This content was published on September 14, 2000 - 09:29
The Vatican Bank and the Franciscan Order are named as the main defendants of the class action suit. On August 30, the court allowed the plaintiffs to add the names of the SNB and unidentified banks in Switzerland, Austria, Argentina, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Germany.
The plaintiffs say the Vatican Bank, the Franciscans, the SNB and the other banks hid valuables and other "treasures" stolen from murdered victims of the Ustashi regime.
The Nazi puppet state murdered up to 700,000 Serbs.
American State Department documents show the SNB received gold and silver deliveries from Croatia. These documents also say most of it was stolen from victims of the Ustashi.
The plaintiffs want the SNB to explain what happened to these valuables after the war, and have them returned.
One of the plaintiffs lawyers, Jonathan Levy, said some of the "treasures" might have been sent to Argentina with the help of the Vatican Bank, where thousands of Ustashi war criminals and their sympathisers hid after the war.
The lawsuit also demands that the SNB bank hand over any information about Vatican accounts in Switzerland.
It was thought that Swiss banks, including the SNB, were safe from future litigation concerning the Second World War, after an agreement reached between the banks and Jewish organisations.
However, the court in San Francisco decided to allow the lawsuit because the Serb victims of the Croatian fascist regime do not belong to any of the "classes" of victims mentioned in the agreement.
swissinfo with agencies