Find Lost Money in Switzerland
In July of 1997, the Swiss Banker's Association published a list of dormant accounts originally opened by non-Swiss citizens. These accounts had been dormant since the end of World War II (May 9, 1945). Most belonged to Holocaust victims. Go to: http://www.dormantaccounts.ch
In October of 1997, SBA published a second list of 14,445 dormant accounts worth $8.2 million. It contained primarily those accounts opened by Swiss citizens prior to the end of World War II, but included names of foreign owners as well. Accounts containing less than 100 Francs were excluded, although these were turned over to ICEP. For details contact ICEP at: 20 rue de Candolle (3rd Floor) 1205 Geneva, Switzerland; or visit: http://www.crt-ii.org
The continuing efforts of the Independent Committee of Eminent Persons (ICEP) have since resulted in the discovery of additional dormant accounts - 54,000 in December, 1999.
The published lists contain all types of dormant accounts, including interest-bearing savings accounts, securities accounts, safe deposit boxes, custody accounts, and non-interest-bearing transaction accounts. Numbered accounts are also included. Interest is paid on accounts that were interest bearing when established.
The Claims Resolution Tribunal (CRT) handles processing of all claims on accounts due non-Swiss citizens. There is no fee charged when making a claim. Uncomplicated claims will be processed under a "fast-track" procedure. Contact: CRT, Löwenstrasse 17, PO Box 7589, 8023 Zürich; Tel: +41-1-215 54 20 / +41-1-215 52 03 [f]; or visit: http://www.crt-ii.org
If you believe you may be entitled to an account not on any published list, contact: Swiss Banking Ombudsman, Schweizergasse 2, CH-8001 Zürich, Switzerland; +41-1-210-3720 (fax), +41-1-213-1460 (voice). Additional information is available at: www.swissbanking.org
Holocaust victims and heirs may also be entitled to receive part of a $1.25 billion class action settlement. Class members are those who: (a) had bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, and/or securities on deposit at any Swiss bank; (b) had assets looted by the Nazi regime with the cooperation of Swiss entities, (c) performed slave labor for Swiss entities, or (d) were denied entry or otherwise persecuted after gaining entry to the country.
Visit: www.swissbankclaims.com or phone: (888) 635-5483 in the U.S., (800) 554-370 in Australia; 0-800-992-765 in South Africa; and 0-800-917-4424 in the United Kingdom. The AVOTAYNU website - http://www.avotaynu.com/ - also offers a database of unclaimed swiss accounts and other Holocaust-era assets.
While the initial emphasis was on bank accounts, safe deposit boxes and stolen gold, emphasis has shifted to looted art, unpaid insurance policies, and compensation for those who were forced to endure slave labor.
Many Europeans bought life and property insurance policies in days leading up to the war. As a result of an agreement was reached in London during the meeting of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, families of those who died during the Holocaust will be paid the real value (adjusted for post-war currency devaluations) of their life insurance policies.
Underwriters agreed to place $90 million in escrow for payment of apparently valid claims that cannot be substantiated because records were destroyed, while an additional $10 million was provided to administer the program. At least one company, Zurich Insurance, has set up a help line at: (888) 301-9740 for those who believe they may be beneficiaries of Zurich life policies issued prior to or during WW II.
The International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC), also known as the Eagleburger Commission, was established in 1998 to expedite the location of lost policies. Visit their website: www.icheic.org for information and assistance.
Although the 1953 London Debt Agreement imposed a moratorium on slave labor claims, the 1989 reunification of Germany and two subsequent legal opinions effectively lifted the ban. As a result, at least 40 slave labor cases have been filed in U.S. courts. Due to the number of large number of pending lawsuits and proposed settlements, Holocaust victims and heirs should keep abreast of developments.
The Holocaust Claims Processing Office offers assistance in the recovery of assets deposited (including safe deposit boxes) in Swiss banks between 1/1/33 and 5/9/45; and moneys never paid in connection with insurance policies issued by European underwriters. It can also help track down looted art. Contact:
Holocaust Claims Processing Office
New York State Banking Department
One State Street
New York, NY 10004-1417
800) 695-3318 (U.S. toll-free)
(212) 709-5583 (outside U.S.)
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, 9760 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90035, is another excellent resource. Visit: www.wiesenthal.com
For those filing claims, supporting documentation may be available from Israel's pending Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Go to: www.yadvashem.org
AVOTAYNU, a publisher specializing in Jewish genealogy offers a number of resources on its web site: www.avotaynu.com
The Banking Ombudsman in Switzerland http://www.bankingombudsman.ch/
A person wishing to make a complaint should first address his bank, requesting a written reply. Should that response be unsatisfactory, he may then contact the Banking Ombudsman by telephone or in writing. Most people initially seek advice by telephone. Many enquiries can be resolved directly, either by clarifying the situation or by explaining a complicated procedure step by step.
In more complex cases, the person raising the complaint is asked to give full details (see checklist). The Ombudsman will generally also need to approach the bank himself for an explanation to ensure that his final assessment is as comprehensive and objective as possible.
The Banking Ombudsman is free to take any steps he considers necessary before forming his own independent opinion, such as asking the bank for documents and information.
Can the Banking Ombudsman help in my case?
Is the bank located in Switzerland?
Can a financial loss or any disadvantage be demonstrated?
Is no official body actively involved in the case?
If you can answer all these questions with 'yes', you may consult the Banking Ombudsman.
Please enclose the following with your written application:
A clear description of the facts, the problem and the complaint.
Copies (not originals!) of relevant documents (e.g. contracts, correspondence with the bank, receipts).
A concise description of what you wish to accomplish (what you hope to achieve and why? If possible, please explain how your financial loss is composed).
Your explicit written authorization that the Ombudsman is permitted to contact the bank and that the bank may provide him with information.
Processing Time/Date Limitation
The Ombudsman process usually takes about one to two months. Straightforward cases can often be handled faster, while complex issues take longer.
It should be noted that normal time limits (statute of limitations) are not suspended by a consultation of the Banking Ombudsman.
Under the regulations, the Banking Ombudsman acts as an intermediary for customers of all banks belonging to the Swiss Bankers Association (i.e. virtually every bank in Switzerland). He cannot help with issues affecting branches or subsidiaries of Swiss banks abroad.
It should also be borne in mind that the Banking Ombudsman cannot influence the banks in matters of business or pricing policy. He is therefore neither empowered to question decisions regarding credit extensions, nor to challenge fee schedules.
Once a public authority is actively involved (e.g. a court, administrative body or prosecuting office), it is generally too late for the Banking Ombudsman to become active. Other cases may be so complex that they fall outside the scope of the Ombudsman process or the Ombudsman may advise the customer or his representative to apply directly to the courts on other grounds.
The Banking Ombudsman does not provide general legal opinions or legal advice. In the case of general banking questions, where no specific disputes are involved, the bank should be contacted directly.