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Governor Lauds Historic Accord with Swiss Banking Commission
-Unprecedented Agreement Brings Down Wall of Secrecy-

February 27, 1997

Governor George E. Pataki today announced the New York State Banking Department has reached an unprecedented agreement with the Swiss Federal Banking Commission, giving State bank regulators extensive access to records currently stored in Switzerland dating back to the years leading up to World War II.

"This is an extraordinary diplomatic accomplishment that will bring down the wall of secrecy that has kept the truth hidden for far too long," Governor Pataki said.

"The accord marks the first time a governmental agency outside of Switzerland will be allowed to review Holocaust-related documents from this era on their soil," the Governor said. "More important, it is a major step toward reaching our final goal: returning any and all unaccounted or stolen assets to Holocaust survivors or their heirs, whether they live in New York or anywhere else in the world."

Governor Pataki sent Superintendent of Banks Neil D. Levin to Switzerland earlier this month for top-level meetings with executives at Swiss Bank Corporation, Union Bank of Switzerland, and Credit Suisse. Swiss Bank Corporation and Credit Suisse established New York offices in 1939 and 1940, respectively.

The agreement between the Swiss Federal Banking Commission, primary regulators of the Swiss operations of these institutions, and the New York State Banking Department means New York's bank regulators will be allowed to review confidential customer information about dormant accounts and any other previously classified materials pertaining to unclaimed assets previously held in New York.

"Swiss Banks have gained a reputation for secrecy but, by agreeing to open their books, they've recognized the urgent need to give the world a full accounting of what took place during World War II, whether it is at the New York offices of Swiss banks, or in Switzerland itself," Superintendent Levin said.

News accounts from the early 1940's have confirmed that assets were transferred to New York from Switzerland, largely because the Swiss feared a German invasion, Superintendent Levin said.

The scope of the cooperation agreement covers accounts of potential Holocaust-victims that were held in branches or agencies of Swiss banks in the State of New York, as well as the New York institutions which served as correspondent banks to Swiss banks during the years 1933 to 1945.

It also covers accounts that may have been transferred to Switzerland before 1960, according to a letter to Superintendent Levin from the Swiss Federal Banking Commission and signed by its Director, Daniel Zuberbuhler, and Dr. Urs Zulauf, the Commission's Vice-Director.

"Superintendent Levin's trip to Switzerland broke new ground in the search for the truth about Holocaust-era assets," the Governor said. "This agreement provides the crucial framework needed to intensify our investigation and, ultimately seek justice for all Holocaust survivors or families who lost loved ones during the worst genocide in human history."


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