United States "pleased" with Swiss cooperation in war against terrorism

The federal prosecutor, Valentin Roschacher (right) says there is no evidence money used for the September 11 attacks transited via Switzerland Keystone

The United States has said it is pleased with the cooperation it has received from the Swiss authorities in its battle against terrorism. The comments came on the same day that the Swiss federal prosecutor, Valentin Roschacher, said no evidence had been found that Switzerland's financial system was used to funnel money for the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US.

This content was published on October 2, 2001 - 19:46

Robert Bradtke, deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs at the US state department, told swissinfo by videophone from Washington he was "very pleased with the cooperation from the Swiss authorities".

"Switzerland is a very important banking and financial centre," Bradtke said.

"Both in Bern and in Washington we have had important conversations with legal and financial authorities, and we feel we are getting very full, very good cooperation," he added.

Asked whether the level of cooperation between Switzerland and the US could be improved, Bradtke insisted the US government was satisfied with the offers of help from Swiss authorities.

"Can we do better? I am sure the answer is 'yes', but the willingness to cooperate and spirit of cooperation is very positive," Bradtke noted.

One account unblocked

At a news conference in Bern on Tuesday, Roschacher said a Swiss investigation into the terrorist attacks was continuing, and that one account which had been frozen last month had since been unblocked.

"Concerning the role of Switzerland as a financial centre in the transfer of funds linked to concrete preparations for the attack, there is no substantial indication at this time that
would make one conclude Switzerland played a role, he said.

Roschacher also confirmed reports that one of the suspected hijackers who flew an airliner into the World Trade Center had stopped over at Zurich international airport on July 8. Some 6,000 people were killed or are missing as a result of the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington.

Mohammed Atta flew to Zurich from Miami on a Swissair flight and continued on to Madrid several hours later, Roschacher said. It was unclear whether he left the airport area, but he withdrew SFr1,700 ($1,050) in cash from an automatic teller machine.

Atta used a credit card to pay SFr56 for two knives at an airport duty-free shop. The knives were found in his baggage that arrived too late to join him on the ill-fated September 11 flight from Boston to New York, Roschacher said.

Swiss authorities had run checks on more than 200 potential suspects, but found no record that any of them had stayed in Swiss hotels, he said.

One person questioned

One person, whom Roschacher did not identify, had been questioned but was not under arrest.

Swiss authorities unblocked a suspicious account frozen at a Zurich bank on September 19 after checks showed the account and its owner did not seem to be involved in the case.

Investigators were still chasing clues, but the probe - especially of complex banking and financial transactions - could take some time to wrap up, Roschacher said.

He insisted Swiss banking secrecy was no impediment. "Bank client secrecy does not exist for me as a prosecutor," he said. "Any suspect account in Switzerland can be frozen and all the documents are available to Swiss criminal investigators - and to foreign investigators if legal assistance has been granted.

Roschacher said Swiss banks had cooperated fully, but foreign investigators had to provide concrete details of their suspicions and not vague terrorist conspiracy theories.

swissinfo with agencies

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