Swiss Helping Germany in Search for Former East German Assets

By Paul Verschuur
(c) 2010 Bloomberg News
Thursday, July 15, 2010; 12:00 AM

Bank documents that could shed light on what happened to assets belonging to former East German political parties and organizations were handed to Germany yesterday after seven years of talks and proceedings, the Foreign Ministry said today in an e-mailed statement.

State and Communist Party entities in the former East Germany used foreign companies for legal business purposes as well as for financing illegal activities, the ministry said from the Swiss capital of Bern. According to German investigations, such "front companies" also existed in Switzerland, it said.

Germany first requested Swiss help in 2003 after it was "unable to uncover all of the financial movements in question," the statement said. Swiss authorities granted legal assistance in cases where there was enough specific evidence and decided in 2007 to ask 14 banks to check the accounts of people suspected of "committing illegal acts," it said.

Eight banks reported a total of 56 accounts following the request, the Swiss ministry said without specifying names. The documents may be used in court should Switzerland give approval under its mutual legal assistance agreements with Germany.

Switzerland is holding talks with Germany on a new tax treaty that would ease Swiss banking secrecy and require the disclosure of information about Germans believed by their government to have evaded taxes.

German officials yesterday raided offices of Credit Suisse Group AG, the second-largest Swiss bank after UBS AG, in Germany as part of a tax probe.

© 2010