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Switzerland

Swiss Bank Scandal Fallout: Paper That Broke The Story Could Get Sued

Lawyers for both Philipp Hildebrand, the recently resigned president of the Swiss National Bank, and for Bank Sarasin, a Swiss private bank, may take separate actions on privacy grounds against the Zurich weekly Weltwoche that broke the story that led to

Roger Köppel, Weltwoche's editor-in-chief (krusenstern)
Roger Köppel, Weltwoche's editor-in-chief (krusenstern)

*NEWSBITES

ZURICH - Lawyers for Philipp Hildebrand, who recently resigned as president of the Swiss National Bank, may take legal action against the Swiss publication Weltwoche for violating privacy laws. Lawyers for Bank Sarasin, a Swiss private bank, may take a similar course against the weekly paper.

Based on data stolen from the Zurich branch of Sarasin by a staffer in its IT department, the paper broke the story of suspect foreign exchange transactions ostensibly made by Hildebrand. Zurich's prosecuting attorney has already opened a case against the staffer for the theft.

A separate issue is the damage to the reputations of both Mr. Hildebrand and Bank Sarasin. During a press conference, Hildebrand stated that he would examine all options to see "if and against whom it would be necessary to take legal steps." Media lawyer Andreas Meili said that if the weekly paper were shown to have presented Hildebrand in a false light, or as having unnecessarily damaged the former SNB president's reputation and honor, it would have to pay damages and make amends that could include part of the paper's profits.

With reference to the forex transactions, Weltwoche called Hildebrand a "crook" and a "liar," and stated that he had abused insider knowledge and behaved immorally. Meili said that Hildebrand also had the option of bringing a case against the journalist, Urs Paul Engeler, who covered the scandal. Weltwoche"s lawyer, board president Martin Wagner, told Tages-Anzeiger that the paper had "no legal issues in relation to our coverage of the Hillenbrand case on the table at present."

Bank Sarasin released a communiqué stating that it "reserved the right to sue for damages in conjunction with the faulty reporting of a Swiss weekly paper." Legally, it has up to one year's time to do this. Lawyer Meili explains that such statements are issued to put pressure on and give additional clout to the threat of legal action. Weltwoche"s Martin Wagner was unimpressed saying the statement was "meaningless," adding: "I think the banking institution in question has enough to do to clean up its internal mess."

According to Meili, one option the bank would have would to bring a suit claiming its reputation had been so damaged by the coverage that its competitivity in the banking sector had suffered. Violations of the law of unfair competition can not only be pursued in civil but also in criminal suits. Under that scenario journalist Engeler could be fined up to 100,000 Swiss francs ($105,000) or be given a prison sentence – "assuming," says Meili, "it could be proven that he had acted intentionally."

Weltwoche"s Wagner remained firm. "Everybody concerned in this affair has enough homework without getting caught up in legal procedures," he said.

Read the full story in German by Bernhard Fischer

Photo - krusenstern

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why Russia Is Suddenly Deploying Air Defense Systems On Moscow Rooftops

Russia is increasingly concerned about security from the sky: air defense systems have been installed on rooftops in Moscow's government quarter. Systems have also appeared in several other places in Russia, including near Vladimir Putin's lakeside home in Valdai. What is the Kremlin really worried about?

photo of ice on the river in Moscow

Clear skies, cold reality along the Moskva River

Anna Akage

-Analysis-

The Russian Defense Ministry has refused to comment. State Duma parliamentary officials say it’s a fake. Still, a series of verified photographs have circulated in recent days of an array of long-range C-400 and short-range air defense systems installed on three complexes in Moscow near the Kremlin, as well as on locations in the outskirts of the capital and in the northwest village of Valdai, where Vladimir Putin has a lakeside residence.

Some experts believe the air defense installations in Moscow were an immediate response to recent Ukrainian statements about a new fleet of military drones: The Ukroboronprom defense contracter said this month that it completed a series of successful tests of a new strike drone with a range of over 1,000 kilometers. Analyst Michael Naki suggests that Moscow’s anti-air defense systems were an immediate reaction to the fact that the drones can theoretically hit Kremlin.

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Yet the air defense installations in Valdai seem to have been in place since late December, following Ukrainian drone attacks on a military airfield deep inside Russia’s Sorotov region, 730 kilometers (454 miles) southeast of Moscow.

Others pose a very different rationale to explain Russia’s beefing up anti-air defenses on its own territory. Russian military analyst Yan Matveev argues that Putin demanded the deployment of such local systems not as defense against long-range Ukrainian drones, but rather for fear of sabotage from inside Russia.

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