U.S. wiretapped Swiss diplomats in case of “dormant accounts” of Holocaust victims

U.S. wiretapped Swiss diplomats in case of "dormant accounts" of Holocaust victims

The U.S. intelligence agencies tapped telephone conversations of Swiss diplomats in the 1990s regarding the case of “dormant accounts” of Holocaust victims in Swiss banks.

In 1995, the victims of the Holocaust and their descendants filed a lawsuit in New York against the Swiss banks. They claimed that they still could not access their World War II accounts. During the proceedings, Switzerland faced unprecedented pressure from the United States, which took the side of the plaintiffs. After three years of intense negotiations, the Swiss banks and the World Jewish Congress agreed to pay the account holders and their heirs $1.25 billion in compensation.

A recently declassified memo that came into the possession of the radio station reveals new details of the story. The document, dated 1998, was addressed to the late Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti, Ambassador in Washington Alfred Defago and Thomas Delfago, who at the time headed an ad hoc working group dealing with the funds displaced to Switzerland during World War II. The memo reported that all conversations between Cottey and Defago regarding the high-profile case were wiretapped by U.S. intelligence agencies.

In an interview with the radio station, Borer confirmed that he was aware of the contents of the note. He claimed that he and the Swiss secret service had repeatedly warned the diplomats in charge of the case about possible wiretaps. Nevertheless, there were those who, in spite of all the warnings, continued to discuss the negotiations over the phone. Borer did not rule out the possibility that the security services had also wiretapped the management of the banks.