State and party entities of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) used foreign companies for legal business purposes as well as for financing illegal activities. According to German investigations such front companies also existed in Switzerland. The German authorities first sent requests to Switzerland for cooperation in 2003 when it became clear that they were unable to uncover all the financial movements in question. In some cases Switzerland was able to supply the requested information via an international mutual legal assistance procedure. In other cases, however, this channel remained closed because the available evidence was not sufficient to initiate this procedure.
In October 2007, the Federal Council decided to comply with a request from the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to initiate an inquiry involving several banks. Accordingly it asked 14 banks to research accounts and transactions of individuals who were suspected of committing illegal acts. The Federal Banking Commission (now FINMA) was responsible for implementing the decision.
The research carried out by the banks was time-consuming because of the long period of time since the accounts were opened and closed, and when the relevant transactions took place. In many cases, the deadline for storing bank documents had already expired. Of the 14 banks asked, eight reported a total of 56 accounts.
The documents handed over yesterday in Bern may be used as evidence in court if Switzerland gives its approval via an international mutual legal assistance procedure. With the transfer of the documents to Germany, Switzerland has contributed to finding out about the financial aspects of the end phase of the GDR.
Address for enquiries:
Tel.: (+41) 031 322 31 53
Fax: (+41) 031 324 90 47