Banks probe thousands of dormant Swiss accounts

1945 file photo showing looted gold hidden in a German salt mine Keystone

Swiss banks are checking on thousands of bank accounts opened before 1955 and untouched for the past 50 years, a German newspaper has reported. The story has been confirmed to Reuters by the Swiss Bankers Association.

This content was published on May 4, 2015 - 08:26 and agencies

Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported that the accounts were being probed in compliance with a new Swiss law requiring banks to publish details on accounts opened at least 60 years ago, and dormant for at least 50 years. It could be that some contain wartime funds stashed by Nazis.

As Reuters has reported, the Swiss Bankers Association confirmed the report on Sunday, saying that the accounts had been created by Swiss as well as foreign clients – and that there was no particular Nazi connection.

“This publication is important for the banks as it allows them to search very widely for beneficiaries of the unclaimed wealth before the money has to be handed over to the government,” the spokeswoman told Reuters.

Unclaimed accounts have been a sore subject in Switzerland. In the 1990s, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) campaigned for Swiss banks to return assets belonging to Holocaust victims. In 1998, the Swiss government and the WJC hammered out a 1998 settlement with Swiss banks paying out $1.25 billion (CHF1.3 billion) to organisations representing Holocaust victims and their families.

According to the Welt am Sonntag report, at least one suspicious account has turned up: opened by a German in 1940 and containing over CHF1,000 ($1,072).

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