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Police interview Blocher in Hildebrand affair

A former IT worker at Bank Sarasin has admitted releasing details of the Hildebrand family's financial transactions Keystone

Police have interviewed Swiss People’s Party strongman Christoph Blocher as part of an investigation into the leaking of bank data in the Hildebrand affair.

The Zurich prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Friday it had also launched criminal proceedings against a People’s Party lawyer and a Zurich cantonal parliamentarian for breaches of banking secrecy laws.

As part of the investigation, police on Friday searched the houses of both the lawyer and the parliamentarian.

Philipp Hildebrand resigned as chairman of the Swiss National Bank (SNB) on Monday, having been accused of insider trading after private banking details of foreign currency transactions were leaked.

Hildebrand denied the charge, maintaining his wife ordered the transactions without his prior knowledge.

An IT worker at Bank Sarasin has admitted passing the confidential information to a lawyer. The bank fired the employee and pressed criminal charges against the employee and unnamed third persons for violations of bank client confidentiality.

“The criminal charge is also directed against persons who possibly induced the bank’s employee to violate bank client confidentiality and who received confidential information and exploited it for their own or other people’s purposes,” the bank has said in a statement.

The Zurich prosecutor’s office said it had initiated criminal proceedings for breaches of banking secrecy laws against the lawyer and the Zurich cantonal parliamentarian “in the context” of the criminal complaint lodged by Bank Sarasin.

The lawyer is also being investigated for violation of professional secrecy, police said.

Transfer of data

According to Bank Sarasin: “The data was stolen by taking screen shots of the Hildebrand family’s portfolio and of currency transactions.”

In a newspaper interview last Sunday, the lawyer in question confirmed the IT worker was an old school friend who had passed on to him detailed information about Hildebrand’s financial transactions.

The lawyer told the St Galler Tagblatt he had arranged a meeting between the IT worker and Blocher who subsequently informed the government of suspicions about Hildebrand’s foreign currency transactions.  

An outspoken critic of Hildebrand’s monetary policy, Blocher presented 2011 Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey with information about the Hildebrand family’s foreign exchange transactions.

In interviews with Swiss media, Blocher has maintained he did not handle original banking documents in the affair.

The Zurich prosecutor said Blocher had been interviewed as part of its efforts to clarify the circumstances surrounding release of the confidential bank data. He is not the subject of the criminal investigation.

At the end of 2011, a rumour reached the media that SNB chairman Philipp Hildebrand had used his insider knowledge for personal gain.

First the media reported that the financial affairs of the Hildebrand family had been investigated by auditors and given the all clear. 

Then details started emerging about an advantageous currency trade made by Hildebrand’s wife Kashya – a Swiss-American dual national. The implication was that she had inside knowledge about the bank’s plans to weaken the franc.

This was followed by revelations in some Sunday papers that the source of the information about the Hildebrands’ accounts was none other than Christoph Blocher, former justice minister, and deputy chairman of the right wing People’s Party. Then it turned out that he’d got the information from an employee of Sarasin Bank. 

The next bombshell: the Weltwoche weekly magazine, which is close to the People’s Party, announced that it had “proof” that Philipp Hildebrand himself, not just his wife, had indulged in insider dealing.

Hildebrand spoke to the media on January 5, 2012, denying any wrong doing and completely rejecting calls for his resignation. 

On January 9 Hildebrand faced the media again, this time to resign after realising he could not prove that he had been unaware of his wife’s transactions. 

Hildebrand will receive a full year’s salary of about SFr862,000  ($900,000), the National Bank said on Wednesday.  

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR