Volcker Commission reaches end of the road

The Volcker Commission, led by Paul Volcker (pictured), has held a final meeting in Zurich, after a three-year inquiry into Holocaust era accounts held by Swiss banks. The Commission found that 45-50,000 accounts may belong to victims of Nazi persecution.

This content was published on February 23, 2000 - 11:46

The Volcker Commission has held a final meeting in Zurich, after its three year inquiry into Holocaust era accounts held by Swiss banks.

The meeting reviewed the Commission's final report, released in December, which identified more than fifty thousand accounts that may belong to victims of Nazi persecution or their heirs.

That figure was revised downwards slightly on Wednesday. Auditors have discovered some duplication in the process and the number of accounts is now estimated at 45,000 to 50,000.

But the Commission has upped the number of accounts it wants named from 25,000 to 26,000, including those which are thought most likely to be linked to the Holocaust. It wants the Federal Banking Commission to authorise their publication in order to facilitate claims.

The Federal Banking Commission is not due to make a decision on the issue until next month, but the head of the Volcker Commission, the former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Paul Volcker (pictured), says he is not worried by the delay.

"I think they've got the matter in hand and I'm much more concerned about the decision they make than the speed at this point", he says. "I made some comments in Washington a few weeks ago that may have been misinterpreted that I was frustrated with the process. After three years I think we're all frustrated but that was not meant to be directed at any particular part of the Swiss authorities".

Even if the decision had been made earlier, Volcker says, the process of identifying the claimants would have been no nearer to a conclusion, since the form and funding for the proposed Claim Resolution Tribunal have yet to be finalised. It's still not clear who will shoulder the financial burden of administrating the Tribunal.

Volcker acknowledges that his inquiry has fostered deep bitterness among many Swiss. But he says the Commission is grateful for the cooperation given by Switzerland and says it should act as a role model to other countries trying to come to terms with their past.

"Some of the Jewish members spoke quite eloquently of their satisfaction at putting this behind them and in some ways Swiss cooperation can be held up as a model of dealing with the past and looking ahead to the future".

By Michael Hollingdale

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