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Swiss press rallies against Fagan lawsuit

The Swiss press rounded against Fagan's announcement that he would pursue Swiss banks in the courts


A lawyer who launched lawsuits against Credit Suisse and UBS over their business dealings with Apartheid South Africa has come under fire in the Swiss press.

The Zurich-based newspaper, "Tages Anzeiger", was openly hostile to Ed Fagan's latest crusade. It said Swiss banks were a "sitting target" for Fagan, because they "paid up quickly and were so scared."

But the paper also questioned Fagan's credibility, describing him as a vociferous "PR-manager" liable to crop up wherever there was a lucrative claim to be made.

Swiss banks have nothing to fear from Fagan's lawsuit, the editorial concludes. But the paper suggests that the issue of the banks' moral responsibility in helping to support the Apartheid regime should be put under public scrutiny in the same way that the Bergier Commission was charged with the investigation of Switzerland's wartime past.

The French-language "Tribune de Genève" was also hostile to Fagan's claims on Swiss banks, saying that they were right not to "let themselves be manipulated any longer".

Historical injustice

The paper rejected Fagan's opportunism in seeking substantial cash rewards by representing victims of historical injustices. "History is not a magic cauldron from which lawyers can eek out their fortunes," the paper said.

The "Berner Zeitung" said Swiss investment in South Africa probably did help to sustain the Apartheid regime.

But the paper argues that Switzerland is one of the world's leading investors in post-Apartheid South Africa. It would be a shame, the paper adds, if Fagans' case were to jeopardise the close links between Switzerland and South Africa.

"Le Temps" said the Swiss people were becoming increasingly "exasperated" by their country being held accountable for past injustices. The paper warned that the popular anger against Fagan ran counter to the ideal of an open, responsible Switzerland, and played into the hands of populist politicians.

swissinfo with agencies

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