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)


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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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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