The ” Lagarde List “

Editor’s Note (Ralph Turchiano) Re-Post Request for cross reference HSBC and Panama files. Original Post date 28 October 2012

Engineering Evil : Authenticity Still Requires further verification

Being on a List does not imply guilt

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Swiss Village Upset Over Tax Increase to Support 1 Refugee Family

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

A village in the Swiss canton of Zurich has expressed anger over the situation of just one refugee family. To carry on supporting a mother from Eritrea and her seven children, authorities aim to increase taxes, media report.

Just over 1,000 people live in the village of Hagenbuch, which is forced to spend over 60,000 Swiss francs (around US$64,000 euro) a month on the family – 30 percent of the monthly expenses for the entire village.

The authorities are pondering a tax increase of at least 5 percent, Blick newspaper reported.

“I don’t know where to turn. I think we have no other choice but to raise taxes,” Mayor Therese Schlaepfer told the daily.

She also expressed her anger at the fact that immigrants have only rights and no obligations. According to the mayor’s words, the situation is causing the obvious outrage of the villagers as well.

A woman from Eritrea and her seven children moved to the quiet village three years ago, with a visa allowing her to stay in Switzerland for five years, and the possibility to extend it later.

The municipal government immediately took responsibility for paying her rent and also gave the family 2,600 francs a month to cover living expenses.

English: School at Hagenbuch, canton of Zürich...
English: School at Hagenbuch, canton of Zürich, Switzerland Esperanto: Lernejo en Hagenbuch, Kantono Zuriko, Svislando Deutsch: Schule in Hagenbuch, Kanton Zürich, Schweiz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Continue reading “Swiss Village Upset Over Tax Increase to Support 1 Refugee Family”

Switzerland rejects Croatia free movement deal after immigration referendum

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Switzerland has refused to sign a protracted deal with Croatia, initially agreed over a year ago, which would have given Croatians unrestricted access to the Swiss employment market. The Swiss say it’s not viable “in its current form”. Continue reading “Switzerland rejects Croatia free movement deal after immigration referendum”

Switzerland bucks European Union, votes to limit immigration

GENEVA – Voters in Switzerland on Sunday narrowly backed a plan to limit immigration, in a blow for the government after it had warned that the measure could harm the Swiss economy and relations with the European Union.

Swiss public television SRF reported that some 50.3 percent of voters backed a proposal by the nationalist People’s Party to introduce quotas for all types of immigrants. About 49.7 percent voted against the plan. The difference between the two sides was fewer than 30,000 votes, with a turnout of about 56 percent. Continue reading “Switzerland bucks European Union, votes to limit immigration”

Referendum to keep foreigners out of Switzerland?

On Sunday, the Swiss vote on whether to restrict immigration to their country. The ramifications of a yes vote, experts say, could be huge. To their shock, the referendum has a decent shot at passing.

When Germans hear Switzerland, they first think of the children’s book “Heidi”, snow-covered mountains and secure bank accounts. Their neighbor to the south is a popular vacation destination, but more and more Germans also come to Switzerland to work. They can do so because the small, neutral state entered a freedom of movement agreement with the European Union in 1999. Even though Switzerland isn’t a member of the union, EU citizens have been allowed to immigrate to Switzerland with  hardly any restrictions since then.

That might change soon. In a nationwide referendum, the Swiss are voting on an “initiative against mass-immigration” this Sunday (09.02.2014). The initiative was put forward by the nationalist-populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP). The party wants to restrict the number of immigrants and allocate a limited number of slots to certain national or occupational groups.

Switzerland ‘bursting at the seams’ Continue reading “Referendum to keep foreigners out of Switzerland?”

Over 100 Swiss banks seek amnesty for helping Americans evade tax

More institutions than expected will tell how they helped American clients hide their assets

UPDATED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 6:14am

Bloomberg in New Jersey

  • _mbh203_33883229.jpg
Third of Swiss banks seek US tax amnesty

The top US tax prosecutor says 106 Swiss banks are seeking US amnesty for helping American clients evade taxes.

US prosecutors gave more than 300 Swiss banks until December 31 to seek non-prosecution agreements if they have “reason to believe” they violated tax laws. Banks must disclose how they helped Americans hide assets, hand over data on undeclared accounts and pay penalties.

The programme is the largest assault in a five-year US crackdown on offshore tax evasion. Continue reading “Over 100 Swiss banks seek amnesty for helping Americans evade tax”

UN’s naked male sculpture hidden ahead of Iran talks

Monday, Oct 14, 2013

GENEVA – A relief carving of a naked man at the UN’s Geneva headquarters was covered up on Monday, apparently to spare the blushes of Iranian diplomats ahead of fresh talks on the country’s nuclear drive.

UN officials would not comment on why the wall relief, inspired by Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam”, had been masked by a large white screen, referring questions to the Swiss authorities.

But Swiss newspaper Tribune de Geneve claimed that the aim was to avoid offending the Islamic republic’s delegation for the talks taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Iranian men are expected to cover their arms and legs in public, with women further obliged to cover their hair and wear loose clothing in line with the hardline interpretation of Islam endorsed by powerful clerics in the country.

Donated by Britain to the UN’s forerunner the League of Nations in 1938, the larger-than-life reclining figure was sculpted by Eric Gill, and tops the entrance to the building’s Council Chamber where the talks are due to take place.

Swiss officials declined to address the newspaper’s claim, telling AFP that the aim was to provide a neutral backdrop at the entrance to the meeting hall. Although the talks are to take place in the UN’s 1930s-era Palace of Nations, the world body is not their official host.

Instead, Switzerland was asked to organise the meeting by the so-called P5+1 group made up of the five permanent UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany.

Swiss War Drill simulates invasion by Bankrupt French


Monday, 30 September 2013

Hordes of bankrupt French invade Switzerland to get their hands on their “stolen” money — such is the imaginary scenario cooked up by the Swiss military in simulations revealed over the weekend.

Carried out in August, the apparently outlandish army exercise was based on the premise of an attack by a financially stricken France split into warring regions, according to Matin Dimanche, the Lausanne-based daily.

One of these, “Saônia,” corresponding to the existing Jura region, was preparing attacks on Switzerland to retrieve money it had apparently swiped from France.

Operation “Duplex-Barbara” went as far as imagining a three-pronged invasion from points near Neufchâtel, Lausanne and Geneva, according to a map published in the Swiss newspaper.

Behind the dastardly raid was a paramilitary organisation dubbed BLD, the Dijon Free Brigade bent on grabbing back “money that Switzerland had stolen from Saônia”.

“For its credibility, the Swiss army must work (to ward against) threats of the 21st century,” Antoine Vielliard, Hauate-Savoie councillor, told Matin Dimanche.

However, Daniel Berger, captain of the Swiss armoured brigade, sought to play down the specificity of the threat.

“The exercise has strictly nothing to do with France, which we appreciate” he told the Swiss press. “It was prepared in 2012, when fiscal relations between both countries were less tense.” “French towns were cited to provide soldiers with a real scale,” he said.

Famous for its bank secrecy laws, Switzerland often comes under criticism for allowing foreign account holders to hide their wealth from tax officials at home.

But these opaque laws are coming under increasing fire as France and the US, among others, are cracking down on tax evasion during a period of economic hardship.

This is by no means the first imaginary scenario dreamed up by the Swiss army. Last year, it carried out an exercise based on the premise that a huge wave of refugees crossed into the country after the implosion of the European Single Currency and ensuing chaos across the continent.

“Stabilo Due” centered around a risk map created in 2010 and envisaged internal unrest between warring factions as well as the possibility of refugees from Greece, Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal.

Warning of an escalation of violence in Europe, defense minister Ueli Maurer said at the time: “I can’t exclude that in the coming years we may need the army.” The military is a hot topic in Switzerland, which has mandatory military service. Under Swiss law, all able-bodied men at age 19 have to undergo five months of training, followed by refresher courses of several weeks over the next decade.

A referendum held a week ago saw a large majority of Swiss voters reject plans to abolish conscription.

The current number of recruits stands at around 155, 000 — the biggest army in Europe relative to population size.

Alibi Agencies Help Create Double Lives

By Barbara Hardinghaus

An episode of Germany’s top crime show recently highlighted a secretive business: helping clients create and maintain lies. Now one such agency is struggling to keep up with the demand.

For his best clients, Patrick Ulmer says he goes out and arranges the lie personally. In one instance, he got into his car and drove south to Cologne, where he rang the doorbell at an apartment.

The door opened to reveal his client. The client’s clothing was scattered around the apartment. His cologne and even the cloths he used to clean his glasses were there. The refrigerator contained his favorite foods, from chocolate pudding to melons. All the signs suggested that this was where the client lived.

But appearances can be deceiving. The truth is that this man leads a double life and doesn’t want his wife to know.

The client told his wife his work requires him to be in Cologne during the week. Because she occasionally wants to visit her husband there, Ulmer rented this apartment for him, filling it with the man’s belongings to lay a false trail. He even drops by, presenting himself as a colleague from work, when the man’s wife is visiting. During his visit, he asks innocently where the bathroom is, as if he didn’t already know.

The Business of Lies

Ulmer laughs when talking about it. He finds stories like this one amusing. Sitting in a café called Garbs am Markt, in Weyhe, near Bremen, he lights a cigarillo. The 28-year-old is a tall, rotund man who doesn’t seem to find anything about his job disturbing. And perhaps he has no reason to.

Ulmer runs an agency that specializes in fabrications. His clients can purchase lies both small and large, from a text message to get them out of a tight spot to an entire package of assistance in managing a complicated double life. Ulmer considers this an ordinary service, much the same as driving a taxi. His clients include men and women in equal measure. Most of them come from southern Germany or Austria, more conservative regions where there is apparently a great need for keeping secrets.

Leaving his client’s Cologne apartment, Ulmer offered a cheery goodbye. “The colleague thing makes it especially believable,” Ulmer says. His home visit is part of the package.

Ulmer’s client paid for 12 months up front at the start of the year, a flat-rate, all-inclusive price for which Ulmer organizes the man’s double life. The truth is that this man doesn’t work in Cologne at all. Cologne is his alibi.

In reality, he works in Switzerland. He also lives in Switzerland, with his wife, the one who sometimes visits him in Cologne. But he also has a second wife and a second child in a different Swiss city. He doesn’t want either family to learn of the other’s existence, so he tells one he’s working in Cologne when he wants to visit the other.

Ulmer also set up a telephone number with a Cologne area code for his Swiss client. The client can call both his wives from this number and both of them can also reach him — their calls are routed, via the Internet, to his cell phone. And when one of the women expresses a desire to visit her husband in Cologne, he moves into his alibi apartment there for a few days.

Television Spotlight

“All the client has to do is open the door, everything else is done,” Ulmer says. The price of such an alibi varies according to the amount of work it requires, but falls in the four-figure euro range. Ulmer’s other services come at a set price. A text message costs €9 ($12), while an address and accompanying mail service is €59 a month. Booking a vacation costs €89. An invitation is €69, or €99 if the person issuing the invitation should also be reachable by phone.

Ulmer also recently added a “car service” to his offerings, in which he racks up the mileage on a client’s car. This is useful, for example, for someone who lives in Stuttgart and claims he has to travel regularly to the Ruhr region for work, but in fact only goes as far as Mannheim to visit a lover there.

Ulmer has been running his agency for five years, but business only recently took off after the German broadcaster ARD aired an episode of the popular crime series “Tatort” that featured an alibi agency and a man with two families.

Frank Koopmann, one of the two screenwriters of the “Tatort” episode, was 22 when he found out that his father had a second family, including a daughter. His father described how difficult it had been to keep his other family a secret, such as the time when he accidentally left his wallet in a telephone booth in a city where he had no reason to be. Wondering how people these days deal with similar problems, the “Tatort” writer did a Google search for companies specializing in such cases.

Dreams of Making It

There are just three such alibi agencies in Germany, none as professional as the fictional one featured on “Tatort.” Since that episode aired, though, people now know that such a thing as lies for hire really does exist, and that purchasing such a service is an option.

Once again, Ulmer has worked through the night to keep up with the many requests he receives. He does everything himself, serving as director, webmaster, layout designer and head of marketing. He works from home, under a sloping attic roof that grows hot in the summer.

The agency on “Tatort” operated out of a large, bright office, with a boss who wore elegant suits and directed beautiful secretaries and a host of other employees. That’s where Ulmer wants to end up.

Ulmer’s father worked as a scaffolder and his mother worked in retail. He spent most of his time on his computer and rarely left his room. He started training to be a pastry chef, but quit before he had finished the program. He has worked for a butcher, in dry wall construction, in a warehouse and at a call center. He never completed a degree, but he met a lot of people over the course of those years and he studied their behavior.

Ulmer came to understand that many lives don’t run a straight course. Some wind up in dead ends, others in labyrinths. He himself stumbled into a marriage and then met his second wife by chance online. He and his second wife now live together with two children in a rowhouse with a wading pool in the backyard.

Giving People ‘Freedom’

From the café in Weyhe, Ulmer gazes out at a large parking lot, where families are packing groceries into their cars. “Believe me,” he says, “there’s nothing that doesn’t exist somewhere.”

Ulmer believes he’s making the world better in his role as a liar for hire. As he sees it, the people who book his services are the liars, not him. He is simply the one who organizes things, a specialist in tangled lives.

Liars, scientists say, are not prepared to accept the truth. The people most likely to have affairs are those with low self-confidence. And often it is people with high incomes who tell lies, people who can afford to buy anything, but feel no internal security — people who can’t stand to see their dreams not come true.

“I give people the freedom they need,” Ulmer says. He created business cards and a letterhead for an unemployed man who wanted to create the impression that he still had a job. Ulmer sent a retiree, who wanted to travel without his wife, an invitation to a fictional IT seminar.

People need lies, psychologists say, when desires and reality diverge. For example, last year about 3.5 million Germans a month went online to look for “erotic contacts.” Such “casual dating” is all about “fulfilling intimate fantasies. Love and sex are kept strictly separate,” promises one such website.

“If we can control our secrets, making sure they occupy the place we want them to, then our lives can seem manageable,” writes American psychologist Gail Saltz. “But when our secrets start to control us — and far too often they do — then a normal life clicks over into something else: a secret life.” Feelings of guilt develop, sometimes even making the person sick. Typical symptoms include stomach problems, breathing difficulties and heart trouble.

Famous Second Lives

A year and a half a go, a supermarket manager in England killed himself after it came to light that for 21 years he had maintained a second family just a 20 minutes’ drive away. On Long Island, in the US state of New York, a doctor’s biggest secret emerged when he was in car accident and his two girlfriends ran into each other in the hospital emergency room. Not until long after his death did it come out that the pilot Charles Lindbergh had, in addition to his family in the US, a second life in Germany. François Mitterrand, former president of France, had his official family but also a mistress and a secret daughter, Mazarine Marie, who wasn’t allowed to call her father “papa” when they went out to restaurants or on outings together.


There are advantages to telling lies. Doing so gives the liar a feeling of being in control of his or her complicated life. And telling a lie means not having to entirely deny the normal degree of ambivalence that everyone feels. In this sense, Ulmer is right when he says he’s doing something good.

“Here,” Ulmer says, laying a piece of paper on the café table. The subject line reads, “Alibi request.” The client is a married man who also had a girlfriend, but is no longer with her. That former girlfriend is now in a relationship with one of the client’s colleagues. The client can’t stand seeing the two of them together at the office and wants to break them up.

He believes his colleague is quick to jealousy and looking for a stable relationship. He also believes the girlfriend is looking for adventure. The client called Ulmer, asking for someone to call his former girlfriend and propose an orgy. The client feels certain that his ex would be interested, and that throwing out this bait would compromise her current relationship with his colleague.

“Target: R., current lover, still married, quiet but arrogant, tendency to jealousy,” reads the paper. “Goal: to draw him out.” Ulmer sends this assignment to Munich, to one of his 43 freelancers.

An Actor for Hire

The freelancer in question is waiting in a beer garden, with a beer-and-lemonade mixture in front of him. His name is Florian, and he is an actor by trade. He spent the morning rehearsing for his role as the soldier Beckmann in a production of “The Man Outside.” In a moment he will call the target and propose an evening of group sex.

It’s a sunny afternoon and Florian is wearing a black T-shirt. His thumbs are stained yellow from smoking. He had a position at Munich’s National Theater until last October. At first he was just curious when he came across an ad for Ulmer’s agency on eBay.

He takes out a cell phone, checks to make sure it is set to block his number and takes a deep breath. But when he calls, someone other than the intended target answers, and says the man Florian is trying to reach isn’t there and won’t be back for an hour.

Florian says he’s learned a lot from this job about the things people have to put up with. One time, his task was to accompany a lesbian to a company party. He says that at first he thought, “Why don’t you just tell them you’re not into guys?” But as he walked to the salad bar hand in hand with the client, past a horde of testosterone-driven men, he found himself understanding why the woman didn’t want to come out to this group. He has learned that lies can protect people.

He calls the target’s phone number again. “Hello,” he says. “I ran into Martina recently, at a hotel, and it occurred to me that we could…” But then he breaks off. “Damn, he hung up.”

‘What about morality?’

The next weekend, standing at Gate C 08 at Hamburg Airport, Ulmer says that failing sometimes is simply part and parcel of intruding on strangers’ lives. Today, Ulmer is flying to Vienna to meet with a woman working for his company’s new Austrian branch. He rarely flies and he’s nervous. Onboard, he videos the takeoff with his iPhone, then takes pictures of the flight data, the plane’s elevation and speed. Perhaps he’ll show these pictures to his wife later, to set her mind at ease. She’s taking the children to the playground alone today, something the family usually does together every Sunday. Ulmer says his family’s well-being is very important to him.

He meets with his new employee at a Starbucks in downtown Vienna. Both of them order coffee with ice cream, then settle down to talk shop. “You should always give the client the impression that anything is possible,” Ulmer says. “You need to find a solution right there during that first conversation. You need to be unscrupulous.”

His employee is silent for a bit. Previously, she worked at a wholesaler, selling lamps, and she has three children. She pokes holes in the whipped cream on her ice cream with her straw, then asks, “What about morality? What if we’re destroying families?”

“We aren’t destroying them, we’re maintaining them,” Ulmer says.

They sit there quite a while longer, haggling over the price of “morality.” In the past, she says, people kept their secrets locked away in a box. These days, that box is the Internet. People find advice there, friends, lovers, sex. People don’t need anyone anymore — they have their computer, their iPad or their cell phone. But what is morally defensible?

Avoidance of Reality

Not far from Vienna, Peter Stiegnitz walks into a health resort in the small Austrian city of Bad Vöslau. He is 76, a dapper gentleman, a psychologist with his own practice in Vienna. For the last 30 years, he has concerned himself with the dividing line between justifiable lies and those that are not.

Stiegnitz is married and his wife is currently undergoing treatment in Bad Vöslau. He has accompanied her here. “Look,” he says, “a lie is nothing more than an avoidance of reality.” And that avoidance, he adds, can sometimes do us good.

Stiegnitz researched why people lie and found that about 40 percent lie to spare themselves trouble or punishment, about 14 percent lie to be polite and avoid insulting someone, and 6 percent do it out of laziness. He also found that older women in particular also lie to be loved.

He says women blush when they lie, stare at their conversation partner and are quick to change the subject. Women lie somewhat less often than men, because they are better at coming to terms with reality. Men become agitated when they lie, cross their legs, scratch themselves and sweat.

Being Honest about Lies

What would happen if people didn’t lie anymore? “Then this planet would end up completely deserted. There would be 100 wars,” Stiegnitz says. “Truth fanatics lie to themselves,” he adds, saying that in claiming to know the truth, such people are actually running away from reality. Stiegnitz advises, “Let us be honest about our lies!”

Why, then, does lying have such a bad image? “Lying has limits,” Stiegnitz says, and not all people abide by them. “The limit comes when I cause harm to myself or someone else with my lies.”

As in the case of an affair? “Oh,” he sighs, “if it doesn’t become an ongoing relationship, that’s not overstepping the line.”

A double life, then? “People who lead a double life feel powerful for a while, they’re flying. But no one can keep that up very long. No person has two lives in them.”

What about an alibi agency? “Well, that says something about our condition,” Stiegnitz says. “When we lived in a hierarchical society — with family, church, job — we had less freedom, but we also didn’t have to learn how to handle freedom. Now, we no longer know where we stand. And what do we do? We flee further into freedom.”

In closing, Professor Stiegnitz offers a piece of advice meant to protect people: “Never love too much!”

A Woman’s Double Life

Is this truly all that the clients in Ulmer’s files are doing, then, protecting themselves?


What are we to think, then, of a client of Ulmer’s who has been leading a double life for the past couple of years? This woman, let’s say, comes from the western German city of Bielefeld. Let’s also say her name is Sarah. She chose to travel to Hamburg for this conversation. When she walks in the door of a bar called “Schönes Leben,” which translates to “Wonderful Life,” nothing seems particularly unusual about her, a doe-eyed, cool-looking woman in her mid-40s. She answers every question, but doesn’t want all of her answers to appear in print. She doesn’t want too much information revealed — not when her double life is running so smoothly.

Man number one is a manager from southern Germany, divorced, with a house and children, a freedom-loving guy who enjoys the good things in life. Man number two is a police officer, down-to-earth and funny, who likes bread and butter and is right now waiting at a hotel for Sarah to return. Man number one sent her flowers the day before, with a card wishing her a good time on her “little trip.” She has a long-distance relationship with man number one. Man number two lives very close to her.

She spends a couple of days with one man, then a couple of days with the other. She generally takes her vacations with friends or with man number one, because man number two doesn’t like to fly. She celebrates her birthday with friends and Christmas with her mother. And when she finds herself in a tight spot, with both men wanting to see her, she decides at the spur of the moment which man to see and asks Patrick Ulmer to call the other one. Ulmer or one of his assistants then plays the role of Sarah’s supervising officer, telling the man in question that Sarah, who often travels for work, was urgently needed at the last minute for a project and is already on the plane. Sarah pays the agency €2,000 a year to organize this life. Even her wardrobe is neatly divided between elegant skirts and heels for man number one, jeans and sneakers for man number two.

Who knows about her double life? “Two friends.”

What precautions does she take? “My cell phone is password-protected, and I take it with me into the bathroom when I shower.”

With which man does she have more fun? “Man number two.”

In whose arms would she rather be lying? “Man number one.”

Sex? “Not much with either of them.”

Guilty conscience? “I block it out.”

Why is she doing this at all? “Because I’m so happy. I love man number one, and one of the things he loves about me is how free I am.”

She doesn’t worry about losing him? “No, I do. I worry something will happen to me while I’m out somewhere with man number two and I’ll end up in the hospital. I know both of them would want to visit me.”

Does she think about ending this? “I think about it sometimes, but then I go on with it.”

Honest within Limits

Sarah talks calmly and laughs here and there as she tells her story. She is clearly at home in this life. She feels independent and wanted. She’s grown used to gazing into the eyes of both men, waking up next to both of them, telling both of them, “I miss you.”

Earlier, when she was at the hotel, she says, man number one wrote and asked, “Nice hotel?” She answered, “Riverside.” As she got in the elevator, she realized that hadn’t been particularly smart. Man number one might try to reach her on her cell phone or even on the room phone, in which case under no circumstances could she let man number two, who came with her here to Hamburg, pick up the phone. But she found a simple solution: “I went to the reception and asked them not to put any calls through.”

Sarah says she tries to lie as little as possible, so there’s less to keep track of. She wants to be honest within the existing limits. As for the bigger lies, the ones that are too much work, she lets the agency take care of them. Lying is exhausting.

Sarah, too, is not entirely able to say where the line between good and bad lies falls. Perhaps the limit comes when people who love each other cause each other harm. Or is it no longer love as soon as you hurt the other person?

Or are people happier not knowing some things? Does happiness come from truth, from knowing everything?

Active Versus Passive

Couples therapist Andrea Bräu talks not about people being “victims” and “perpetrators,” but rather of them being “active” or “passive.” In the case of a double life, she says, everyone involved suffers — including the active party, who at some point is no longer able to please everyone, least of all him or herself. Bräu knows that two out of three couples won’t survive a long-term affair, because in the course of the arguments and discussions that follow its revelation, they learn their relationship isn’t as stable as they thought. Often, Bräu says, it is not so much the affair itself that is so hurtful, it is the tangle of lies that destroys trust.

In his attic office in his family’s rowhouse, Ulmer is at his computer. He’s having problems with his website, but he’s also already working on his next client’s alibi. A man wants to travel to the Philippines for two weeks without his wife, so Ulmer is preparing an invitation for him to a course on “burnout prevention” in northern Germany.

Typing away, Ulmer sets out arrival and departure dates and times, a telephone number and a note that course costs will be covered by the participant’s employer. He also encloses a flyer from the clinic offering the course. The clinic is in on the plan and its reception has been informed, just in case the man’s wife calls. For this assistance, Ulmer says, the clinic receives “a small fee.”

Outside, Ulmer’s wife and children are playing with a ball in the backyard, then they have ice cream. On the trip to Vienna, Ulmer related in passing that his wife also once had an affair. He says it took him a year and a half to come to terms with that. In fact, he says, it sometimes still haunts him.

Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein

Spanish premier denies slush funds allegations / Rajoy in Parliament: Barcenas lied, I will not resign

01 August, 16:06

(ANSAmed) – MADRID – Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy spoke Thursday in Parliament, denying allegations that his Partido Popular had ever held slush funds. Rajoy said that former treasurer Luis Barcenas had told ”lies and accused us to defend himself”, but ”his lies will not damage Spain”. The premier added that he was wrong to have ever trusted the man. Opposition Socialist (PSOE) leader Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, who spoke after Rajoy, replied that ”You have harmed Spain. For this, Mr. Rajoy, today I ask for you to leave.” He then announced that the party was calling for a vote of confidence.

‘I will not resign’, Rajoy replied. ”We are facing a surprising and imaginative collection of lies, as time and justice will show,” Premier and PP leader said in reference to the statements made in court by the party’s former treasurer, who confessed to illegal funds, tax evasion and cash donations to high-ranking members of the PP. ”The only certain thing,” Rajoy said, ”is the money that Mr Barcenas has in Switzerland and that for the past four years he has not been the treasurer of the PP.” Rajoy denied that any undeclared money had been given to party leaders and said that the party’s accounts ”are all in order”. He added that ”I don’t have to prove my innocence. The accusing party must prove their allegations in Spain.” Rajoy also said that he would not change the reform programme. ”No one, except Congress and the Senate, has the right to interfere in the country’s politics. I will not allow the agenda of a country with six million unemployed to be conditioned by a man accused of crimes.” (ANSAmed).

Bad sleep around full moon is no longer a myth

Contact: Olivia Poisson University of Basel

Many people complain about poor sleep around full moon. Scientists at the University of Basel in Switzerland now report evidence that lunar cycles and human sleep behavior are in fact connected. The results have been published in the journal «Current Biology».

The research group around Prof. Christian Cajochen of the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel analyzed the sleep of over 30 volunteers in two age groups in the lab. While they were sleeping, the scientists monitored their brain patterns, eye movements and measured their hormone secretions. The findings suggest that even today, despite the comforts of modern life, humans still responds to the geophysical rhythms of the moon.

Short And Poor Sleep

The data show that both the subjective and the objective perception of the quality of sleep changed with the lunar cycles. Around full moon, brain activity in the areas related to deep sleep dropped by 30 percent. People also took five minutes longer to fall asleep and they overall slept for 20 minutes less. The volunteers felt as though their sleep had been poorer during full moon and they showed lower levels of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles. «This is the first reliable evidence that lunar rhythm can modulate sleep structure in humans», Cajochen says.

A Relic From The Past According to the researchers, this circalunar rhythm might be a relic from past times, when the moon was responsible for synchronizing human behavior. This is well known for other animals, especially marine animals, where moon light coordinates reproduction behavior. Today, other influences of modern life, such as electric light, masked the moon’s influence on us. However, the study shows that in the controlled environment of the laboratory with a strict study protocol, the moon’s hold over us can be made visible and measurable again.


Original Citation

Christian Cajochen, Songül Altanay-Ekici, Mirjam Münch, Sylvia Frey, Vera Knoblauch, and Anna Wirz-Justice

Evidence that the Lunar Cycle Influences Human Sleep

Current Biology, August 05, 2013 issue | doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.06.029

Rich Move Assets from Banks to Warehouses

(Sm)art Investing

By Christoph Pauly

To avoid paying taxes, the rich are emptying their bank accounts in Switzerland and investing in art. This has spawned a new business of storing such works tax- and duty-free in warehouses across the world.

One of the world’s most valuable art treasures is being stored in an extremely ugly place, a six-story concrete building known as the Geneva free port. Instead of windows, much of the façade of this giant safe for the world’s wealthy is covered with gray panels.

Anyone hoping to get into the walk-in lock boxes of this very special Swiss tax haven must first surmount a number of hurdles. At the first door, an employee has to type the right combination of numbers into a small screen. The next hurdle is a large steel barrier that has to be rotated counter-clockwise until it snaps into place, followed by a heavy steel door that resembles a submarine bulkhead. Behind it is a drab corridor with doors on both sides. Only the renters have keys to these doors.

The employee of Geneva Free Ports & Warehouses Ltd. remains discreetly in the background while the owners of the locked-up treasures count their gold bars or examine their collection of paintings being stored in the warehouse.

The Nahmad dynasty of art dealers reportedly has 300 Picassos in storage in Geneva. Countless Degas, Monets and Rothkos are also stored on the inhospitable premises. The estimated value of the works is in the billions. Hardly any museum can boast such a valuable collection.

Those who use the warehouse are genuinely wealthy. According to the Capgemini World Wealth Report, there were 12 million millionaires in the world last year, with combined assets of $46.2 trillion (€35 trillion), or 10 percent more than in the previous year.

But even if the world’s rich are getting richer, many of them are also worried. The financial crisis isn’t over yet, and tax havens worldwide are under pressure to disclose the identities of people whose assets are parked in their banks.

Recently, even Swiss bankers have been sending letters to their clients, asking them to cooperate with tax authorities and consider turning themselves in. This only heightens fears of the tax authorities. “We assume that a total of hundreds of billions of francs will flow out of Switzerland,” said the head of the asset management division of UBS, a major Swiss bank, in late 2012.

From Banks to Warehouses

But not everything the banks are losing is actually leaving Switzerland. Customers are admittedly emptying out their accounts and safe deposit boxes. But partly as a result of the many uncertainties in the financial markets, a growing share of the money is being invested in tangible assets, such as art, wine and classic cars. A total of $4 trillion has reportedly been invested in “treasure assets,” a category including various kinds of precious objects.

This requires warehouse space that satisfies the most stringent security requirements. Swiss military bunkers blasted deep into Alpine rock are in great demand. But the free ports in Geneva and Zurich are even more popular because they offer what Swiss banks used to: the freedoms of a tax haven and maximum discretion.

“Scared customers are currently transferring their assets from the banks to the city’s warehouses,” says a pleasant woman at the Geneva free port. So far, she adds, only Swiss customs has shown an interest in the contents of the warehouses, while foreign tax authorities’ chances of gaining access to lists of stored property are slim. Tax evasion, she notes, is not a crime in Switzerland.

“Unfortunately, I can’t offer you a bigger safe. We are fully booked,” she says. All she has left is a 10-square-meter (108-square-foot) room, one of the smallest lock boxes at the facility, at an annual rent of 22,000 Swiss francs (€17,800 or $23,500).

For renters, the real challenge is getting adequate insurance coverage for the riches being stored in the warehouse, with its 140,000 square meters (1.5 million square feet) of storage space. “We have no additional insurance capacity for the warehouse. It’s a huge problem for our customers,” says Ulrich Guntram, chairman of Axa Art Insurance Corporation, the leading art insurer. Other Swiss insurance companies are also declining to offer coverage.

No one knows the exact value of the property being stored in the warehouses. A fire in Geneva is seen as the greatest potential loss scenario in the art world. Partly in response to pressure from insurers, an additional six-story building that will be reserved exclusively for art is now being built in the Geneva free port.

The warehouse company, of which the Canton of Geneva owns 86 percent, offers a special Swiss service: The country’s customs agency, which has an office in the warehouse, doesn’t charge import duties, export duties or even value-added tax. The valuable objects are brought to the warehouse directly from Geneva’s airport. Later, they can be sold and sent abroad discreetly and without additional costs at any time.

In fact, the facility offers a solution for every problem. Classic car aficionados can rent special garages, while wine lovers are offered storage space with controlled temperature and humidity. Providers like Stockbridge, a British asset management company, advertise that gold is completely safe in Switzerland, even when a country can confiscate other types of assets held there. Switzerland is the world’s largest importer of gold, bringing in even more than huge countries, such as India. Four of the world’s major refineries for the precious metal are in Switzerland.

Partly as a result of its duty-free warehouses, Switzerland has developed into a commercial hub for anything that glitters and is expensive. This has not escaped the attention of big- or small-time criminals. On February 18, heavily armed thieves disguised as police officers held up an armored security truck parked in front of a Helvetic Airways plane at the Brussels airport. They carried off $50 million in diamonds en route from Antwerp, the Belgian gem center, to Zurich.

Insiders refer to the planes that travel between Belgium and Switzerland as “diamond bombers.” The police have managed to arrest most of the Brussels airport thieves, and a portion — albeit a tiny one — of the loot was located in Geneva.

Massive amounts of money are involved. German citizens reportedly have up to €200 billion in undeclared earnings in Swiss bank accounts. “Withdraw the money in cash and put it into a private box,” bankers advise their customers. In fact, Swiss National Bank, the country’s central bank, can hardly keep up with the demand for new 1,000-franc bills, the most popular currency denomination among tax evaders.

But the truly wealthy prefer to invest in art.

Art as Investment

Now that the Chinese have discovered the art market as a way to invest their money, the global art business has grown exponentially, reaching estimated sales of €43 billion in 2012. “In the top price segment, art functions as an investment. The rich want to protect their assets,” American collector and author Ethan Wagner (“Collecting Art for Love, Money and More”) said in an interview with the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit.

There is no better place to do this than in Switzerland, where, unlike in Germany, exported art is exempt from value-add tax. This is one of the reasons Art Basel has become a global hub for art and home to its most important fair.

Every year, in mid-June, up to 300 private jets touch down at the Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg Airport for the first day of the fair, when galleries invite customers to their exclusive previews. This year, many of the billionaires interested in art, such as Russian business tycoon Roman Abramovich, had to make a detour to a nearby airport because French air traffic controllers were striking.

But even that didn’t hurt business. The works of artists who have become global brands in their own right are especially successful at art fairs known for attracting large amounts of money. On the preview day, a mobile by Alexander Calder sold for $12 million. Each of the five copies of “Not Yet Titled (Kleine Marokkanerin),” the new sculpture by German artist Georg Baselitz, sold for just under €1 million.

New York gallerist David Zwirner asked $3.5 million for an early painting by Gerhard Richter — and it sold immediately. “We are undoubtedly in a high-price period,” Zwirner says, “and yet the market seems absolutely healthy and sound.”

Sam Keller, director of Fondation Beyeler, a Basel museum, is also stunned by the development. “Artists now attract the same attention as rock stars used to get,” says Keller, who headed Art Basel for a long time. But he also sees nothing wrong with the global elite’s choosing to spend their money on art.

A Vehicle for Money Laundering

It is widely acknowledged that many of these artworks promptly disappear into art warehouses. Dealers are also quietly aware of how the international art trade can be used to launder money.


In April, the FBI searched the Helly Nahmad Gallery on Madison Avenue in New York. US authorities accuse Nahmad, one of the members of a family of collectors, of money laundering and other crimes, which he denies. The New York gallery had a prominent booth at Art Basel this year, as it does every year.

In 2008, the Swiss federal police office summed up its assessment of how well-suited the art industry is to money laundering: “On the whole, discretion and a lack of transparency prevail in the art trade, and transactions are often settled in cash.” The issue is also frequently addressed in the Swiss National Council, the lower house of the country’s parliament, but nothing has been done about it yet. Proposed legislation that would make the Swiss art market subject to the country’s money laundering law has been repeatedly delayed.

UBS is the main sponsor of Art Basel. It has the largest lounge in the VIP area, where it invites its best customers to special exhibits. Art is big business in Basel. “The target audience falls within the highest segment of the wealthy,” says Swiss attorney Karl Schweizer, who has developed the business for UBS. “You can make incredible customer ties with art.”

Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest bank. has also entered the business of art warehouses. It already has its own large art collection and is the main sponsor of London’s Frieze Art Fair, which also has a sister event in New York. Now the bank is building its own warehouse in London and, like UBS, has leased storage space for 200 metric tons of gold in Singapore.

Getting In on a New Business

The Christie’s auction house maintains a presence at the Singapore Freeport, a sleek, futuristic building located at the airport. The Asian city-state has copied Switzerland’s successful strategy with the help of a Swiss adviser. It also offers complete discretion and tax exemption.

The Luxembourgers are also vying for a spot in this lucrative business. An upscale high-security warehouse with an elegant stone façade is currently being built at Luxembourg’s main airport. Instead of a six-story, uninspired structure like the one in Geneva, the warehouse in Luxembourg will make the world’s wealthy feel comfortable by being an object of art itself. “It will be a fortress of art,” David Arendt, the head of Luxembourg Freeport, promised at a presentation in June. It will be surrounded by three-meter (10-foot) walls, he added, and its guards will of course be armed.

The Luxembourgers have also amended their tax laws to accommodate their freeport, which is scheduled to open in September 2014. In the VIP area of Art Basel, officials from Luxembourg sought to entice a well-heeled clientele by touting the new facility — in various languages, including Russian — as “your tax-free emporium.”

Indeed, this tiny country in the heart of the European Union has big plans. At a conference on the future of Luxembourg as a financial hub, Arendt said: “We no longer wish to focus on the Belgian dentist and the German butcher.”

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2013 All Rights Reserved Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH

Arrested Vatican monsignor felt he could act with impunity-judge

Source: Reuters – Sun, 30 Jun 2013 01:19 PM

Author: Reuters

A Swiss guard walks in a hall leading to the Pope’s library at the Vatican May 6, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile



* Scarano had vast amounts of money at disposal -judicial document

* Prelate had close connections to Vatican bank

* Poses first big headache for Pope Francis

* Francis has promised transparency, set up bank inquiry

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY, June 30 (Reuters) – A senior Catholic cleric arrested in a plot to smuggle tens of millions of dollars into Italy controlled vast amounts of money and felt he could act with impunity because of his connections to the Vatican bank, according to a judge’s investigative document.

In the latest blow to the Vatican’s image, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, 61, was arrested on Friday along with an Italian secret service agent and a financial broker.

The three had plotted to smuggle 20 million euros ($26 million) into Italy from Switzerland for a members of a family of ship-owners in southern Italy, an investigating magistrate told reporters on Friday.

The magistrate said the pivotal protagonist was Scarano, who worked until recently as a senior accountant in the Vatican’s financial administration, and that he owned numerous pieces of property and had accounts in the Vatican bank.

A 48-page document in which Judge Barbara Callari approves magistrates’ requests for the arrests, and which was obtained by Reuters, contains transcripts or summaries of wiretaps, emails, letters, cheques and other results of police investigations.

It describes the development of a plot that reads like a spy novel, involving a private plane that was to collect the cash in Switzerland, burned cell phones, a shady financier and an allegedly corrupt secret service agent who promised to slip the money past customs.

In her report, Callari wrote that Scarano felt safe “thanks to his relations with the Vatican bank”. She said the monsignor saw the IOR as “the only safe and rapid instrument for financial and banking operations that could evade – if not outright violate – laws against money laundering and tax evasion”.


The case came as an embarrassment to Pope Francis who, only two days earlier, set up a commission of inquiry into the scandal-plagued Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR).

Scarano was for years a senior accountant APSA, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. Through APSA, he had ready access to the IOR and magistrates believe he had at least two personal accounts there.

The Vatican, which has pledged to cooperate with the magistrates, said Scarano was suspended several weeks ago when magistrates in Salerno put him under a separate investigation.

The arrests of Scarano, secret service agent Giovanni Zito and broker Giovanni Carenzio stemmed from a previous money laundering investigation by Rome magistrates into the IOR.

Magistrates have said there was no indication so far that the bank was directly involved in Scarano’s attempt to smuggle the money into Italy for his rich friends.

But Italian newspapers speculated that Scarano may have been planning to use the bank to launder at least some of the Swiss money for his friends later.

The judge’s report said the cash was in Swiss bank UBS. But it said it never left because Carenzio, the broker, did not carry out his part of the deal even though Zito, the secret service agent, had gone to Locarno in July, 2012 to pick it up.

In her report, Callari wrote that the investigations showed that Scarano had “very vast economic resources” and that “the prelate did not hesitate to use complicated stratagems and to involve many third parties to carry out financial operations without respecting norms against money laundering”.

In the Salerno investigation, Scarano has been accused of attempting to launder money by taking 560,000 euros ($727,900) in cash out of his Vatican account and giving various amounts to friends in exchange for cheques.

He then deposited the cheques into an Italian bank account to pay off a mortgage on a property, his lawyer, Silverio Sica, told Reuters. Sica said well-off friends had donated money to Scarano in order for him to build a home for the terminally ill.

Scarano wanted to use that money to pay off his mortgage so he could sell a property in Salerno and use the proceeds to build the care home, Sica said, adding that Scarano would “clear everything up”. ($1 = 0.7693 euros) (Editing by Mark Heinrich

Switzerland charges man with selling bank’s client data to Germany

Source: Fri, 28 Jun 2013 02:17 PM

Author: Reuters

By Emma Thomasson

ZURICH, June 28 (Reuters) – Swiss prosecutors have charged a German IT expert with selling client data from private bank Julius Baer BAER.VX in Zurich to the German tax authorities, they said on Friday.

The man, who was arrested last July and is charged with breaching banking laws, industrial espionage and money laundering, had confessed and would therefore face a shorter trial. They dropped proceedings against his wife.

An accomplice, identified only as a retired German tax inspector, was under investigation, the prosecutors said in a statement. A Swiss request for German legal assistance in the investigation had gone unanswered, they said.

Julius Baer Chief Executive Boris Collardi went public in a newspaper interview in August about the data theft, which he said had been discovered due to tighter controls following similar incidents. The bank declined to comment on Friday.(Full Story)

Strict bank secrecy, which helped Switzerland build a $2 trillion offshore industry, is under fierce attack as cash-strapped governments get tough on tax evasion, with Swiss banks under investigation in Germany, France and the United States.

Julius Baer agreed in 2011 to pay German tax authorities 50 million euros ($65 million) to close a tax investigation, but is still under investigation in the United States for helping wealthy Americans evade taxes through secret Swiss accounts.

Prosecutors said the IT expert, who they did not name, collected data on wealthy German and Dutch clients from various Julius Baer systems between October and December 2011, as agreed with the German middleman.

He sent 15 emails from his work computer to his private account with attachments containing client names, addresses, account numbers, account balances and currencies, they said.

He filtered the data for German clients with more than 100,000 euros, Swiss francs, pounds sterling or U.S. dollars and sent a sample of the information to his accomplice, who he met later in Berlin in February 2012, the statement said.

In Berlin he handed over data on 2,700 more German clients to be transferred to the German tax authorities and agreed on payment of 1.1 million euros, although prosecutors said they could only recover 140,000 euros from his accounts.

The man sent his accomplice data on Dutch clients of Julius Baer in May and June of last year, which he hoped to sell to Dutch authorities for 400,000 euros, but they turned him down.

Germany and Switzerland struck a deal last year aimed at allowing Swiss banks to levy tax on Germans clients without revealing their identities, but it was overturned by the centre-left opposition in the upper house of parliament.

The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia says it has bought client data from the Switzerland-based operations of Credit Suisse CSGN.VX and Julius Baer, as well as Merrill Lynch and Coutts, a wealth manager owned by Royal Bank of Scotland RBS.L. (Full Story)

Switzerland issued arrest warrants last year for three North Rhine-Westphalia civil servants, accusing them of industrial espionage for buying the bank details of German tax evaders. ($1 = 0.7691 euros)

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

Swiss Govt rejects deal, won’t let US Govt see Bank Accts….


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Swiss parliament rejected a bill designed to resolve a dispute over undeclared bank accounts held by U.S. citizens, potentially setting the stage for American prosecution of the country’s banks.

Members of parliament’s lower house voted 123 to 63 against the bill, which would have allowed Swiss banks to cooperate with the U.S. and to settle a long-running dispute over wealthy American tax evaders. The government has said it has no plan B, in the event of the bill failing to pass.

Switzerland wants to prevent the indictment of another of the country’s banks. Wegelin & Co. was indicted last year and pleaded guilty in January to helping U.S. taxpayers hide assets from the Internal Revenue Service. The bank had taken over clients from UBS AG, which avoided prosecution in 2009 by admitting it aided tax evasion, paying $780 million and handing over client names.

“I don’t think the Americans will really start a wave of indictments — such a scenario is unlikely,” said Peter V. Kunz, a professor of comparative law at the University of Bern. “I do however think one or other banker could face charges. But no one really knows. The legal risks and the legal uncertainties will remain for the Swiss financial sector. How it all will end is totally up in the air.”


Switzerland shuts doors to EU immigrants


Friday, 26 April 2013

The anti-immigration class across Europe has found many new adherents as of late, especially in the most economically devastated countries, like Greece and Italy. But now these Europeans might themselves become the unwelcome migrants, at least in Switzerland.

As I happened to be standing in the most intolerable immigration line that I’ve ever faced – more on that later – I read on my Twitter account that the Swiss government on Wednesday announced a new policy to cap residence permits for all of Western Europe. Switzerland, which is not part of the EU but joined the Schengen bloc that allows freedom of movement of people across European borders, says that it is being overwhelmed by arrivals from across the continent, to the tune of 80,000 people each year.

So it is invoking a “safeguard clause” it negotiated during the 1999 Schengen treaty talk, which it already implemented for eight Central and Eastern European states. Now, as of May 1, residence permits for the citizens of 17 older EU states, from Germany to Spain, will be capped at 53,700 per year.

According to the EU Observer, the Swiss said that the million-plus EU residents who live in the country have “had a positive impact … in particular in terms of consumer spending and on the construction industry,” but that restrictions are “needed to make immigration more acceptable to society.”

The move drew immediate criticism from Brussels. ”The measures disregard the great benefits that the free movement of persons brings to the citizens of both Switzerland and the EU,” Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, said in a statement.

François Hollande rocked as minister confesses to lying over tax evasion

Former Budget Minister admits he had €600,000 in an illegal offshore bank account


Tuesday 02 April 2013

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Jerome Cahuzac, former French finance minister: ‘I was caught up in a spiral of lies’
Getty Images

In a bombshell confession, the former French Budget Minister, Jerome Cahuzac, has admitted that he had lied repeatedly to the President, parliament and public and had cheated on his taxes for 20 years.

Mr Cahuzac’s admission he had €600,000 in an illegal offshore bank account dealt a devastating blow to a Socialist president and government already facing public rage over tax rises, cuts and high unemployment.

President François Hollande said tonight that Mr Cahuzac had committed an “unpardonable moral fault” by lying for four months to the Elysée Palace and the National Assembly. However, in a further, deep embarrassment for the President, the investigative newspaper, Le Canard Enchainé will report today that Mr Hollande saw evidence pointing to Mr Cahuzac’s possible guilt as long ago as December.

Mr Cahuzac, 60, previously a highly paid plastic surgeon, was fired by the Elysée last month from his high-profile job as Budget Minister – in effect the minister responsible for spending cuts and tax enforcement. This followed a declaration by the state prosecution service that the voice in a recorded telephone conversation from 2000, admitting ownership of an illegal, Swiss account, appeared to be the minister.

At the time, Mr Cahuzac continued to proclaim his innocence. After months of denials, he made a double confession: publicly in his blog and privately, to two magistrates.

“I was caught up in spiral of lies,” he wrote. “I fought a torturous internal battle to try to resolve the conflict between my duty to tell the truth and my anxiety to fulfil the mission with which I had been entrusted.”

The admission bears some resemblance to the confession, after years of denials, by the former British environment minister, Chris Huhne, that he had conspired with his wife Vicky Pryce to avoid speeding penalty points. Several French newspapers have suggested that media allegations about Mr Cahuzac’s off-shore account, may be linked to a contested divorce with his wife, Patricia Cahuzac.

Mr Cahuzac, admitted that he had held illegal accounts abroad – first in Switzerland and then in Singapore – for 20 years. He said that he had ordered that €600,000 remaining on his Singapore account to be transferred to France.

The French investigative website, Mediapart, which has also led the way in allegations of wrongdoing against ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, first revealed the existence of Mr Cahuzac’s Swiss account last December.

Mediapart placed online a recorded telephone conversation from the year 2000 in which a politician discussed his embarrassment at having an account with UBS in Switzerland. Mr Cahuzac denied to President Hollande and to the Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, that the voice was his. However, Le Canard Enchainé will report today that President Hollande was told by the interior ministry in December that the voice on the tape was “close to” that of Mr Cahuzac.

The former minister also faces investigation over the source of the funds paid into the Swiss and Singapore accounts. His lawyers said that the money came from his lucrative and successful practice as one of Europe’s leading specialists in hair transplants.

Magistrates are, however, investigating allegations that some or all of the money came from under-the-counter payments by pharmaceutical companies to promote their products.

The shockwaves from Mr Cahuzac’s initial dismissal last month were rapidly overwhelmed by news that ex-President Sarkozy had been formally accused of abusing the mental weakness of a billionaires to fund his 2007 campaign.

Politicians on the moderate left said that Mr Cahuzac’s repeated lies had compounded a “crisis for democracy in France”.

Swiss prosecutors say death of Russian whistle blower will not derail huge fraud investigation


Alexander Perepilichnyy, a 44-year-old businessman who left Russia three years ago, was found dead outside his luxury mansion on an exclusive private estate in Surrey two weeks ago


Jerome Taylor

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Prosecutors in Switzerland say the sudden death of a Russian whistle blower who was helping them uncover a money laundering network will not derail their investigation.

Alexander Perepilichnyy, a 44-year-old businessman who left Russia three years ago, was found dead outside his luxury mansion on an exclusive private estate in Surrey two weeks ago.

The Independent revealed today that he was helping investigators uncover a network of Swiss bank accounts that were used by Moscow tax officials who became incredibly wealthy in the immediate aftermath of an enormous fraud that cost Russian tax payers £230m.

In a statement the Swiss Attorney General’s office told The Independent that the investigation remained on-going and that prosecutors were “still hearing [from] different witnesses”.

“Concerning the death of Mr Perepilichnyy and its consequences on the criminal proceedings, we’d like to stress that our strength resides in our ability to minimise the influence of such a regretful event on our investigation,” the statement read. “A good cooperation with other judicial authorities is also essential to carry on our investigation efficiently.”

The statement added: “In the course of the investigation, the [Office of the Attorney General] has ordered several Swiss bank accounts blocked and the flow of suspicious assets was analyzed. The investigation is continually turning up new findings that require additional examination. No further information is being provided at present in order not to prejudice the ongoing investigations.”

Prosecutors have however confirmed that Russia had requested updates on the investigation through a mutual legal assistance request – a mechanism by which countries officially ask for information from police for on-going investigations. The revelation could indicate that Russian police are looking to open their own investigation into allegations of money laundering but given the country’s historical refusal to go after those responsible for Russia’s largest declared tax fraud it might seem unlikely.

Mr Perepilichnyy brought Swiss prosecutors a treasure trove of information earlier this year which is showed how a number of tax officials in Moscow used shell corporations and Swiss bank accounts to move millions of dollars and pay for luxury properties in Dubai and Montenegro.

Months earlier the same officials approved of a £230m tax rebate for a company that was once owned by Hermitage Capital Management, a British investment fund. Ownership of the subsidiaries of Hermitage had been illegally transferred using stolen corporate seals months before the tax rebate was applied for. The money disappeared into a little known Moscow bank which was liquidated soon afterwards.

Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer, was hired by Hermitage to investigate the scam. After months of forensic examinations he publicly pointed the finger of blame at a network of Russian Interior Ministry officials and underworld figures. Rather than investigate the fraud, police arrested Magnitsky and handed him over to the very men he had accused. He died nine months later in November 2009 after months of brutal treatment and deliberately withdrawn medication.

The case has since become a major source of international embarrassment for Russia as well as generating anger at home over corruption and corporate criminality. A new law in the United States which is named after Magnitsky and calls for visa bans on officials involved in his death is expected to be approved soon after it was voted overwhelmingly for by lawmakers.

Greek state television journalists accused the government of censorship and began a series of work stoppages

Greek journalists strike over suspension of presenters

By Renee MaltezouPosted 2012/10/30 at 8:56 am EDT

ATHENS, Oct. 30, 2012 (Reuters) — Greek state television journalists accused the government of censorship and began a series of work stoppages on Tuesday after two well-known presenters were suspended for criticizing a government minister.

Their removal came on the same day an editor went on trial for printing a list of 2,000 Greeks with Swiss bank accounts, prompting outrage at the swift pursuit of journalists in comparison to the sluggish crackdown on suspected tax evaders.

State NET TV yanked Marilena Katsimi and Costas Arvanitis’s morning show after an on-air exchange on Monday in which they said a medical report supported allegations of police torture and asked if the public order minister would resign over it.

Arvanitis said the decision to suspend him and Katsimi appeared to be politically motivated and an attempt to muzzle the media.

“This is not about us anymore, this is about censorship in state TV,” Arvanitis told Reuters in an interview. “Will we be given a list of words and comments that we are allowed to make, from now on?”

State television said the two were suspended for making “unacceptable allusions” about the minister, Nikos Dendias, and for failing to give him a chance to respond to the charges.

Dendias has denied the medical reports showed evidence of torture of protesters during anti-fascist rallies, as alleged by a newspaper. Arvanitis said state TV’s position was wrong.

“When a journalist makes a comment on air or in text, he doesn’t need to have the response of the politician,” he said.

“We would also like to say that we are sorry because yesterday we also commented on the U.S. elections but we didn’t think to call (U.S. President Barack) Obama to get his view on the issue.”


Many in Greece, including opposition parties, have already been angered by a separate decision to quickly arrest “Hot Doc” editor Costas Vaxevanis after he published on Saturday the so-called “Lagarde list” of Greeks with Swiss accounts.

He was arrested on Sunday, and his trial began on Monday before it was immediately adjourned – drawing indignation from some quarters over the rush to go after the journalist rather than those on the list.

The list was given to Greece by French authorities in 2010 for checks on possible tax evasion but testimony by two former ministers in parliament has suggested little was done to investigate those on it since it landed in Greek hands.

Greek authorities say there is no evidence that those on the list have broken the law, but the apparent inaction on the list as it was passed from one senior official to the next has become a symbol of the political class’s reluctance to pursue the wealthy elite while the poor suffer under austerity.

The Athens Bar Association said it was surprised at how quickly authorities moved against Vaxevanis.

“These ‘choices’ send a message to society that democratic institutions in Greece, or whatever remains of them, are applied now to protect the system in power,” it said.

“Instead of focusing on investigating the validity of the so-called Lagarde list … they focus on the prosecution of a journalist who, in doing his job, dared to publicly reveal information that allegedly is included in the list.”

The list of 2,059 Greek account holders at HSBC in Switzerland features dozens of prominent business figures including a handful of shipping tycoons, companies and two politicians. It also includes a painter, an actress and many listed as architects, doctors, lawyers, and housewives.

It was named after Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund who was the French finance minister when it was handed over. Greek officials have said the list originates from data a former HSBC employee, Herve Falciani, passed on to French authorities.

(Writing by Deepa Babington; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Greek magazine editor arrested on live radio for publishing the names of 2,000 wealthy ‘tax evaders’… all with Swiss bank accounts

  • Kostas Vaxevanis,  editor of Hot Docs, was giving a radio interview in Athens when officers stormed  into the studio saying he had to go ‘to be arrested’
  • Today, as he  appeared in court, Greek daily Ta Nea reprinted the list across ten of its pages  in possible act of defiance
  • Vaxevanis faces  up to two years in prison for what police say was the illegal publication of  personal details without proof of any law breaking
  • He says it  is not him being put on trial but ‘freedom of the press’
  • The list,  given to Greece by France in 2010, contains names of 2,059 Greek account holders at HSBC, Switzerland, to be probed for possible tax  evasion

By Matt Blake

PUBLISHED:09:11 EST, 29  October 2012| UPDATED:10:11 EST, 29 October 2012

A Greek magazine editor was arrested live on  national radio yesterday for publishing the names of 2,000 ‘tax evaders’ from  Greece’s business and political elite.

Kostas Vaxevanis was giving a radio interview  in Athens when officers stormed into the studio saying he had to cut the segment  short ‘to be arrested’.

Greek police swooped after his weekly journal  Hot Doc released the names, all of which are alleged to have employed complex  tax avoiding mechanisms through accounts with HSBC in  Switzerland.

But in a further twist today – the same day  Mr Vaxevanis was due to appear in court charged with violating data privacy laws – a separate publication, Ta Nea, reprinted  the list across ten of its pages.

Led away: Kostas Vaxevanis was giving a radio interview in Athens when officers stormed into the studio saying he had to cut the segment short 'to be arrested'

Led away: Kostas Vaxevanis was giving a radio interview  in Athens when officers stormed into the studio saying he had to cut the segment  short ‘to be arrested’

Vaxevanis faces up to two years in prison for  what police say was the illegal publication of personal details without proof  that any laws had actually been broken.

He immediately compared the officers to Nazi  stormtroopers before sending another message in which he wrote: They’re entering  my house with the prosecutor right now. They are arresting me, spread the  word.’

He and his supporters  claim a cover up by the Greek establishment which attempted to dampen  allegations it had the names for two years but did nothing about  them.

Show of support: Supporters applaud Mr Vaxevanis who likened his arresting officers to Nazi stormtroopersShow of support: Supporters applaud Mr Vaxevanis who  likened his arresting officers to Nazi stormtroopers
Vaxevanis speaks: The list, given to Greece by French authorities in 2010, contains the names of 2,059 Greek account holders at HSBC in Switzerland to be probed for possible tax evasionVaxevanis speaks: The list, given to Greece by French  authorities in 2010, contains the names of 2,059 Greek account holders at HSBC  in Switzerland to be probed for possible tax evasion

The list, given to Greece by French  authorities in 2010, contains the names of 2,059 Greek account holders  at HSBC  in Switzerland to be probed for possible tax evasion.

The accounts  are said  to hold some 2 billion euros until 2007, a sum that riveted  austerity-hit  Greeks, angry at the privileges of politicians and an  elite seen as having  enriched themselves at the country’s expense.

It has been dubbed the ‘Lagarde List’ after  Christine Lagarde, the head of the  International  Monetary Fund who was the French finance minister when the list  was  handed over.

Lagarde List: The list has been dubbed the 'Lagarde List' after Christine Lagarde, pictured, the head of the International Monetary Fund who was the French finance minister when the it was handed over to Greek authoritiesLagarde List: The list has been dubbed the ‘Lagarde  List’ after Christine Lagarde, pictured, the head of the International Monetary  Fund who was the French finance minister when the it was handed over to Greek  authorities

Centre-left daily Ta Nea said that despite  publishing the same list released by Hot Doc it was not leaping to any  conclusions about ‘its content nor the connotations it evokes in a large part of  the public.’

It did not say why it had decided to reprint  the list and stressed there was no evidence linking any one on the list to tax  evasion.

The magazine says the list, which  includes  well-known political and business figures, was sent to it  anonymously and  authorities have not confirmed if the list was  authentic.

Vaxevanis wrote on his Twitter account: ‘Ta Nea is publishing the list today.  Will they be prosecuted? A month ago it published a list of the tax returns of  celebrities. Charges weren’t filed.

‘Today, it’s not Hot Doc that’s on trial but  press freedom in Greece, and truth.’

It is the latest act of defiance against the  Greek establishment in a society that is becoming increasingly frustrated with  the government’s handling of a recession that has hit Greece harder than  most.

Athens has seen hundreds of  anti-austerity  protests – many violent – over the past three years,  since Greece revealed it  had been misreporting key deficit figures and  sank into an economic gloom so  deep it has been likened to the Great  Depression of the 1930s.

The most recent was just last week when  hundreds took to the streets to demonstrate against the government’s harsh  austerity programme during a planned general strike that crippled the nation’s  infrastructure.

The 24-hour shutdown closed  down public services, stopped all rail and ferry services and grounded  flights.

Wall of fire: Riot police are engulfed in flame by a petrol bomb thrown by protesters. Greek trade unions called a 24-hour general strike to oppose new austerity measures just last weekWall of fire: Riot police are engulfed in flame by a  petrol bomb thrown by protesters. Greek trade unions called a 24-hour general  strike to oppose new austerity measures just last week

Flare-up: Protesters throw petrol bombs against riot police in Athens today during a 24-hour general strike

Flare-up: Athens has seen hundreds of anti-austerity  protests – many violent – over the past three years, since Greece revealed it  had been misreporting key deficit figures and sank into an economic gloom so  deep it has been likened to the Great Depression of the 1930s

The country is clinging to solvency with the  help of two massive international bailouts worth a total 240billion  euros.

To secure them, it committed to drastic  spending cuts, tax hikes and  reforms, aimed to cure years of profligate  government spending.

But while significantly reducing budget  deficits, the measures accelerated a recession that after five years is closer  to a depression.

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Claims emerge Alps murder victim may have had access to part of Saddam Hussein’s fortune

A British engineer murdered in the French Alps may have had access to part of a multi-million pound fortune once belonging to Saddam Hussein, it has been claimed.

French cyclist 'was prime target' in Alps massacre

Police around the BMW at the scene of the shooting in woods near Chevaline in the French Alps Photo: Juluan Simmonds for the Telegraph

By Peter Allen, Paris

10:01PM BST 27 Oct 2012

The possibility was raised by German secret agents working on the international enquiry into the quadruple killing close to Lake Annecy on September 5.

Iraqi-born Saad Al-Hilli, 50, died in a blaze of gunfire alongside his wife Iqbal, 47, his mother-in-law Suhaila Al-Allaf, 74, and Sylvain Mollier, 45, a French cyclist.

Since the massacre in an isolated wooden layby on September 5th, police and prosecutors have been at a loss to establish a motive for the bloodshed.

But now intelligence officials based in Berlin have uncovered evidence that Mr Al-Hilli may have had access to cash which belonged to the former Iraqi dictator.

This raises the possibility that sinister forces specifically targeted Mr Al-Hilli as a means of gaining access to part of the enormous wealth that Saddam hid around the world, and especially in Switzerland.

Specialist police were last week questioning Geneva-based bankers about the Al-Hilli’s assets, while financial records in countries including the USA have also been requested.

It has already been established that Mr Al-Hilli was in dispute with his older brother, 53-year-old Zaid Al-Hilli, over the will of their father, Kadhim, who died around a year ago in Spain.

Until now it was thought that the money under dispute came from Kadhim’s property dealing and other business interests.

But the German agents have now told their French anti-terrorist counterparts that cash deposited in an Al-Hilli account in Geneva originally came from Saddam.

Kadhim, a former factory owner, left Baghdad in the late 1970s with his wife, Fasiha, and two boys, after allegedly falling foul of Saddam’s Ba’ath Party.

The family settled in Pimlico, central London, with any accounts containing money given to Kadhim by Saddam allegedly frozen after Kadhim was struck off a “list of beneficiaries”, according to the new German intelligence.

But the clear implication is that Kadhim may not have fallen out with Saddam at all, and was in fact being used to get money out of Iraq on behalf of the dictator, who was always making plans in case he was overthrown.

Saddam was executed in December 2006, shortly after it was revealed that he withdraw around £620 million from the Iraqi central bank in 2003 and began hiding it around the world.

The assets would have been added to millions already deposited in accounts in other countries – mainly through Iraqis who had moved abroad.

Saddam is known to have concentrated particularly large amounts in Switzerland and France, where he had at least two homes and moored a £17million yacht.

A report in this weekend’s Le Monde reads: “The German secret service has passed on to the gendarmerie’s anti-terrorist branch information about the links between the al-Hilli family and Saddam Hussein’s fortune.”

These assets include around £820,000 in the Al-Hilli’s Geneva account – and there could be others.

The breakthrough is sourced to a senior French detective working on the killings in eastern France, who said the cosmopolitan Kadhim Al-Hilli would have been an obvious candidate to take money out of Iraq.

If Saad Al-Hilli was party to this secret information – and indeed the location of the hidden millions – then he would have been an obvious target for an attack.

“The conflict between the al-Hilli brothers, highlighted during the enquiry, was therefore centered on this inheritance and not solely on their father’s,” read the report in Le Monde.

“Swiss lawyers discovered that Saad al-Hilli had a bank account containing a million euros, without making the link between this money and Iraq, where his family originally come from,” it adds.

Eric Maillaud, the Annecy prosecutor who is leading the enquiry into the quadruple killer, said he had ‘not yet been informed’ about the intelligence from Germany.

However he confirmed that Mr Al-Hilli’s financial affairs and his background in Iraq were at the top of subjects being investigated as he tried to uncover a motive for the murders.

Emmanuel Ludot, a French lawyer who defended Sadaam Hussein following his capture, admitted that the deposed Iraqi regime still had funds in Swiss accounts, although he claimed the notion of a “hidden fortune” was fantasy.

Zaid Al-Hilli has been questioned by police, but is solely being treated as a witness after denying any involvement in the slaughter of his family members to officers in Britain.

The attack also saw Mr Al-Hilli’s seven-year-old daughter, Zainab, badly injured, while her four-year-old sister Zeena, was left deeply traumatised.

Greek editor’s arrest sought over list with Swiss accounts

Posted 2012/10/27 at 7:47 pm EDT

ATHENS, Oct. 27, 2012 (Reuters) — Greek police are seeking to arrest the editor of a weekly magazine for publishing a list of more than 2,000 names of wealthy Greeks who have placed money in Swiss bank accounts, police said on Saturday.

The so-called “Lagarde List” – given to Greece by French authorities in 2010 with names to be probed for possible tax evasion – has been a topic of heated speculation in Greek media in recent weeks. It is named after International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, who was French finance minister when the list was handed over.

The “Hot Doc” magazine published the list of 2,059 names including some well-known figures on Saturday. The magazine said it had been sent the list anonymously. Authorities did not confirm if the list was authentic.

A prosecutor ordered the arrest of editor Costas Vaxevanis for violating laws on releasing private data, police said.

“The prosecutor issued a warrant for Vaxevanis’s arrest because he published a list of names without special permission and violated the law on personal data,” a police official said.

“There is no proof that the persons or companies included in that list have violated the law. There is no evidence that they violated the law on tax evasion or money laundering,” the official added.

The list has inspired heated discussion in near-bankrupt Greece, where public anger at politicians and the wealthy elite grows as austerity measures take a toll on the poorer sections of society.

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Writing by Deepa Babington; Editing by Will Dunham)

France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland now imposing partial ban on the Novartis Flu Vaccine

France halts sale of Novartis flu vaccine

Fri, 26 Oct 2012 14:18 GMT

Source: reuters

(Adds comment from European Medicines Agency)

PARIS, Oct 26 (Reuters) – France said it was halting sales of an influenza vaccine made by Swiss drugmaker Novartis as a precaution after potential impurities were found in batches of the product in Italy.

Health Minister Marisol Touraine said on Friday she had asked for all doses of Agrippal to be withdrawn from the market.

“At this stage no impurities have been found in France … There is no known risk for patients who have used this brand in France,” Touraine said in a statement.

France said it had taken the action pending a decision by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), although the London-based agency said it was not taking a lead in investigations since the flu vaccine was authorised by national governments.

The EMA is responsible for medicines that are authorised centrally, although it may be called on to help with issues concerning nationally approved products if requested by the European Commission or governments.

“At the moment there is no regulatory action from our side,” an EMA spokeswoman said.

The French decision follows the announcement by Swiss and Italian authorities on Wednesday that they were banning some flu vaccines produced by Novartis after small white particles were discovered in Italy in injections.

German and Spanish authorities also imposed a ban on certain Novartis flu vaccines on Thursday.

Agrippal is the only Novartis flu vaccine marketed in France. The ban in Switzerland concerns Novartis’ Fluad as well as Agrippal, while Italy has also withdrawn subunit Influpozzi and adjuvanted Influpozzi.

Novartis said on Thursday it believed its flu vaccines were safe, despite the discovery of aggregated protein in a batch of vaccine which was not released to the market.  (Reporting By Vicky Buffery and Ben Hirschler; Editing by Keiron Henderson and Helen Massy-Beresford)

Spain regulator halts sale of some Novartis flu vaccines

Update #2 : France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland now imposing partial ban on the Novartis Flu Vaccine

Italy has banned them..Switzerland is now considering

Thu, 25 Oct 2012 16:57 GMT

Source: reuters

MADRID, Oct 25 (Reuters) – Spain joined other European countries in halting the sale of anti-influenza vaccines made by Swiss group Novartis, after small particles were found in some of the injections.

Spain will halt the sale of all the Chiromas and Chiroflu vaccines, produced by Novartis in Italy, the Spanish Medicines and Health Products Agency (AEMPS) said in a statement on Thursday.

Spain follows Italy, where the sale and use of four anti-flu vaccines produced by Novartis was banned on Wednesday pending tests for possible side effects after white floating material was discovered in some vaccines.

“Some of the affected batches have already been sold in Spain and other European countries, without any recorded increase in adverse reactions,” the AEMPS said in a statement.

“Nevertheless, as a precautionary measure and until there is a full report detailing the origin and extent of the problem, we have decided to halt all specimens of both vaccines.”

Switzerland has also taken precautionary measures, while Germany’s vaccination agency said on Thursday some Novartis vaccines should not be used and that the Swiss drugmaker had agreed to recall them.

Novartis Chief Executive Joseph Jimenez said on Thursday he was confident the vaccines are safe and added he did not expect other countries to take action.  (Reporting by Clare Kane; Editing by David Holmes)

Italy bans Novartis flu vaccines pending tests. Switzerland to also take precautionary steps.

Wed, 24 Oct 2012 17:14 GMT

Source: reuters

ROME/ZURICH, Oct 24 (Reuters) – Italy banned the sale and use of anti-influenza vaccines produced by Novartis on Wednesday pending tests for possible side effects, prompting authorities in Switzerland to also take precautionary steps.

The Italian Health Ministry advised citizens not to buy or use the drugs Agrippal, Fluad, subunit Influpozzi and adjunvated Influpozzi until further notice.

It said 487,738 vaccine doses were affected, and the move came after the Italian Pharmaceutical Agency decided further tests on the products may be necessary following indications of possible side effects.

Switzerland’s drug watchdog then also raised a precautionary red flag for flu vaccines Agrippal and Fluad, saying that at most 160,000 doses were affected.

“Given the current unclear situation Swissmedic has issued a halt to deliveries for the cited vaccines and recommends not using them until further notice,” it said.

Preliminary investigations had shown Italy’s ban came after the discovery of white particles in the injections, which could suggest some of the components of the vaccine had clumped together, Swissmedic said.

Novartis said it was cooperating with Italian health authorities to understand the reasons behind the decision, and it had already provided authorities with an assessment in support of the quality, efficacy and safety of the vaccines.

Last week, Italy’s Health Ministry said Netherlands-based vaccine maker Crucell, a unit of U.S. drugmaker Johnson & Johnson, had suspended a delivery of 2.36 million seasonal flu vaccine doses to Italy after finding problems with two lots of it.

The ministry said last week it would make up the shortfall by purchasing more doses from other manufacturers.

Italy uses between 10 million and 12 million doses of flu vaccines every year, according to the ministry.

Facebook blocks Swiss newspaper for publishing nude photo

By Agence France-Presse Friday, October 19, 2012 15:16 EDT


The Swiss daily Tribune de Geneve said Friday it had its Facebook account blocked by the social networking giant after publishing an explicit image of a woman’s genitals.

In a bid to illustrate an article on cosmetic surgery, the newspaper ran an image taken from Gustave Courbet’s 1886 oil painting “The Origin Of The World”, which shows a reclining nude.

The newspaper, which described the article as “very serious”, said that the image was deleted by Facebook only hours after it was published, and that the Californian firm had carried out online checks of the daily’s IT administrators.

Switzerland arming in preparation for European meltdown?

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Swiss Army is preparing contingency plans for violent unrest across Europe. A nation mostly famous for its banks, watches and chocolate fears it may face a massive influx of European refugees in the near future.

One of the world’s richest nations openly expressed concerns over the possible outcome of Europe’s continuing financial troubles, and is currently conducting army exercises against the possibility of riots along its borders.

In September, the Swiss military conducted exercises dubbed ‘Stabilo Due,’ with scenarios involving violent instability across the EU.

Switzerland has maintained an avowedly neutral stance for decades, and refused to join the eurozone when presented with the opportunity.

Bern’s biggest fear is likely the disorganization of neighboring nations’ armies that would follow general instability; the eurozone crisis and the severe austerity measures in the EU are forcing member-states to significantly slash their military budgets. If protest continues to spread across Europe, police and armed forces may find themselves ill-equipped to manage the unrest.

“I will not rule out that we will need the army in the coming years,” Swiss Defense Minister Ueli Maurer said last Sunday.

The Swiss Defense Ministry has pressed ahead to modernize the country’s army despite political opposition. With its multibillion-Franc military budget and an army of around 200,000 soldiers, the country also plans to purchase new ‘Saab Gripen’ jet fighters.

“Minister Maurer, accompanied by whispers from the top uniformed leadership in Switzerland, is trying to raise awareness that Europe’s massive fiscal-cum-political crisis could get very unpleasant,” John R. Schindler, a professor of national security affairs at the US Naval War College wrote in an article for the XX Committee website.

The Chief of the Swiss Armed Forces, Lieutenant General André Blattmann, likewise revealed plans to deploy an additional four battalions of military police (1,600 soldiers) to protect strategic points across the country. Blattmann is expected to present the plan in December.

Professor Schindler predicts that, “if the next Anders Brievik were to target Muslims, not fellow Europeans, things could get unimaginably ugly very quickly,” which could trigger widespread Muslim uprisings in Europe.

Switzerland, however, stands in stark opposition to the multicultural policies and thinking now common in other European nations. In 2009, Switzerland passed a national referendum banning the construction of Islamic minarets

Business defections hit Greece amid recovery effort





Efforts to restore investor confidence in Greece’s struggling economy took a double blow this week when a major European bottler and a prominent dairy company announced relocation plans.


Coca-Cola’s second biggest bottler worldwide, Athens-based Coca-Cola Hellenic (CCHBC), on Thursday said it was moving its headquarters to Switzerland and looking to establish a listing on the London stock exchange.


This followed an announcement by Fage, one of the country’s main dairy producers and a major exporter, that it was moving its headquarters to Luxembourg “to better reflect the increasingly global nature” of its activities.


Greek companies have been relocating to lower-cost neighbouring markets such as Bulgaria for years, a process accelerated by wave-upon-wave of austerity cuts and sales tax hikes over the past two years that have felled consumer demand.


But in a week when German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Athens pledging to support growth initiatives in return for further budget savings, the news wreaked havoc in Greece.


“I cannot tell each and every company how to act, nor can I impose police measures to influence strategic decisions made by companies,” Greece’s normally mild-mannered Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis told reporters.


“The climate has markedly changed compared to the past. I will not say it’s all gardens of roses ahead of us…but if we can cover this final stretch, and with (EU) support, companies will not leave and others will start returning to the country,” the minister argued.


Hatzidakis has spearheaded efforts to get money pumping back into the country in the form of loans from the European Investment Bank.


The EIB is to release some 1.44 billion euros ($1.86 billion) by 2015 to support projects that have ground to a halt such as highway construction.


The money will partly cover debts owed by the Greek government to the private sector, now estimated at around eight billion euros.


“In conjunction with austerity measures and structural reforms, which demand a great deal from the people, there must also be growth stimulus,” Merkel told reporters this week after talks with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.


“Therefore, we will support everything possible to provide Greece access to credit from the European Investment Bank,” she said.


With a sixth year of recession in sight and with little hope of winning a decades-long battle against red tape, Greece has laboured to attract investors even in the midst of an unprecedented privatisation drive.


Under the terms of its EU-IMF loan rescue, the country is obliged to offload some 19 billion euros ($24.5 billion) in state assets by 2015 but has so far managed around a tenth of that total.


Forced to take part in a state debt rollover, Greek banks have slowed business loans to a trickle.


And there was speculation earlier this year, during a Greek political deadlock that took two elections to produce a workable government, that the country could even be forced to leave the euro.




French supermarket giant Carrefour and banks Credit Agricole and Societe Generale have all recently taken steps to extricate themselves from Greece as well.


These are precautions not unrelated to so-called ‘Grexit’ fears, concern that Greece may return to a devalued Drachma, rating agency Fitch said in a Friday note with respect to Coca-Cola’s move.


But it added that what CCHBC and Fage did were “limited precedents” for other eurozone corporates for now, “despite incentives to … protect against the risk of a full-blown sovereign crisis.”


Both Coca-Cola Hellenic and Fage claimed they were not abandoning Greece.


“We are a Greek multinational company having its headquarters in Switzerland,” CCHBC chief executive Dimitris Lois said in a conference call.


“Having a new headquarters in Switzerland will provide stability that will be evaluated by credit agencies…more stability, that’s what we are looking forward to,” he added.


CCHBC said the move would also improve access to equity and debt capital markets and increase its flexibility in raising new funds.



Greece’s Biggest Company Quits Country

Friday, 12 October 2012

Greece’s biggest company is leaving the country, drinks bottler Coca Cola Hellenic (CCH) said on Thursday in announcing it will move to Switzerland and list its shares in London, dealing a blow to the debt-crippled Greek economy.

The material impact on Greece may be limited — its Greek plants will go on working and CCH said the five percent of its business that the world’s second-ranked Coke bottler has in Greece will be unaffected. But analysts quickly saw it as bad news for a nation struggling to compete inside the euro zone.

CCH, which already has secondary stock market listings in London and New York, said in a bourse filing in Athens that shareholders, most of whom are abroad, will exchange all their stock for shares in Coca Cola HBC, based in Switzerland. That stock will have its primary quote in London.

“A primary listing on Europe’s biggest and most liquid stock exchange reflects better the international character of Coca Cola Hellenic’s business activities and shareholder base,” the company said in its regulatory statement.

The firm, in which The Coca-Cola Company of the United States has a 23-percent stake, bottles Coke and other drinks in 28 countries from Russia to Nigeria. About 95 percent of its shareholders and business activity are outside Greece.

“This transaction makes clear business sense,” chief executive Dimitris Lois told analysts in a conference call. An overwhelming majority of shareholders have already accepted moving a company which has long complained about Greek taxes.

Analyst Manos Hatzidakis of Beta Securities in Athens said that the move made sense for the firm, which follows Greek dairy group FAGE this month in seeking a low-tax, low-volatility haven for its corporate base — in FAGE’s case Luxembourg.

“The Greek bourse is losing a very good company and the London Stock Exchange is gaining a very important group,” said Hatzidakis. “It’s very bad news for the Greek economy and bourse.”

German customs seize Stradivarius violin, demand $1.5 million

By Agence France-Presse Thursday, October 4, 2012 7:49 EDT

Acclaimed concert violonist Yuki Manuela Janke, seen here in 2005

An acclaimed concert violinist has been told to pay $1.5 million in duty to German customs, who confiscated her Stradivarius saying she may plan to sell it, the instrument’s Japanese owner said Thursday.

German-based Yuki Manuela Janke, 26, was returning home through Frankfurt airport on September 28 when customs officers seized her violin, valued at $7.6 million, Nippon Music Foundation said.

German authorities demanded she pay customs duty to the tune of 19 percent of the value of the 1736 instrument, also known as “The Muntz”, if she wanted it back, said the foundation’s managing director Kinya Narabayashi.

It follows a similar incident earlier this year when Belgium-based Yuzuko Horigome had her 1741 Guarnerius violin, valued at $1.2 million, confiscated at the same airport on pain of a tax payment.

“This is clearly a problem. They (German officials) don’t have anything specific to tell us, like ‘if you have these (documents), you are OK’,” Narabayashi told AFP.

The instrument was taken away even after Janke showed her loan contract with the foundation, proof of insurance on the instrument, the violin’s photograph, and proof that the foundation had legally imported the instrument to Japan.

“The main mission of our foundation is to loan the best instruments to musicians all over the world. They (musicians) are actively travelling,” Narabayashi said.

The Muntz takes its name from a collector and amateur violinist, H. M. Muntz of Birmingham, England, who owned the violin in the late 1800s, the foundation said.

It is one of the last instruments made by Antonio Stradivari. It is in excellent condition and known for its tonal quality.

Horigome, who also lives in Europe but owns her instrument, had gone through Frankfurt airport a number of times without a hitch.

But in August, her insistence that the instrument was a tool of her work fell on deaf ears and German officers seized her violin.

The instrument was returned to Horigome last month after she presented a number of documents to German authorities, which were also contacted by the Japanese foreign ministry, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

“Even in Ms. Horigome’s case, she doesn’t know exactly what (the German customs) needed to release the instrument,” Narabayashi said.

“Of course we are in touch with Ms. Horigome. We are using all channels available to solve this issue,” he said.

Janke, born in Munich to a German father and a Japanese mother, has won a number of German and international prizes.

She was the top finisher in the renowned Paganini Competition in Genoa in 2004 and won third prize at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 2007.

The foundation told the Asahi Shimbun that governments around the world should create passports for treasured instruments to ensure their smooth cross-border passage, particularly for soloists.

The foundation, established in 1974, owns 20 top string instruments such as those created by Stradivari. The foundation receives funding from the Nippon Foundation, a non-profit giant that uses proceeds from motorboat racing for cultural, medical and philanthropic causes and ocean-related charitable projects

How toxic environmental chemical DBT affects the immune system: Dibutyltin (DBT)

2008 study posted for filing

Contact: Debra Kain
University of California – San Diego

An international team of researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the University of Basel in Switzerland have issued a report on the mechanism of toxicity of a chemical compound called Dibutyltin (DBT). Their findings will be published by PLoS ONE on October 28.

DBT is part of a class of high toxic and widely distributed chemical compounds called organotins, DBT is most commonly used as an anti-fouling agent in paint, for example in the fishing and shipbuilding industries. It is also used in the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic tubes and bottles.

According to co-lead investigators Michael E. Baker, Ph.D., researcher in UC San Diego’s Department of Medicine, Division of Nephrology-Hypertension, and Alex Odermatt, Ph.D., at the University of Basel, DBT is closely related to tributyltin (TBT), another well-known pollutant. Concern about the side effects of TBT led the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization to organize a global ban on its use.

“TBT is metabolized by the body’s liver into DBT,” the scientists explained. “Humans are also exposed to DBT by drinking water from PVC pipes. Because it is poorly broken down, DBT remains in the environment and it appears that its toxic effects are more rapid and more pronounced than those of TBT.”

Symptoms of organotin exposure can include irritated skin, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and flu-like symptoms. Although long-terms effects in humans are uncertain, large doses of certain organotins have been shown to damage the reproductive and central nervous systems, bone structure, the liver and immune system in mammals.

Combining studies of the effect in cell culture of DBT on the function of a key class of steroid hormone, glucocorticoids, with computer-based analyses of the molecular interaction of DBT and the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), the U.S. and Swiss scientists explained the mechanism by which DBT inhibits transcriptional activity of the GR.

The GR is expressed in almost every cell in the body. Besides important functions in energy metabolism, the GR helps to regulate genes that control the body’s immune system. The researchers propose that by blocking GR activation, DBT disrupts the appropriate response of the immune system during inflammation, providing an explanation for some of the toxic effects of this organotin.


Alex Odermatt is from the Division of Molecular and Systems Toxicology, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Basel. Additional contributors to the paper include first author Christel Gumy of the University of Basel and the Universitiy of Berne; Anna A. Dzyakanchuk and Denise V. Kratschmar, University of Basel; and Charlie Chandsawangbhuwana, UC San Diego Department of Bioengineering. The work was supported in part by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Media contact: Debra Kain,, 619-543-6163

BPA exposure in utero may increase predisposition to breast cancer

Contact: Aaron Lohr 240-482-1380 The Endocrine Society

Study finds perinatal exposure to BPA has effect on mammary hormone response

Chevy Chase, MD—A recent study accepted for publication in Molecular Endocrinology, a journal of The Endocrine Society, found that perinatal exposure to environmentally relevant doses of bisphenol A (BPA) alters long-term hormone response and breast development in mice that may increase the propensity to develop cancer.

BPA, a man-made chemical produced and marketed largely for specific industrial purposes, is detected in body fluids of more than 90 percent of the human population. It was originally synthesized as an estrogenic compound and there has been concern that exposure to BPA could have developmental effects on various hormone-responsive organs including the mammary gland.

“I want it to be clear that we do not provide evidence that BPA exposure causes breast cancer per se,” said Cathrin Brisken, MD, of the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research and co-author of the study. “We do provide evidence that BPA exposure alters mammary gland development and that this may increase the predisposition of the breast to breast cancer.”

In this study, researchers mimicked human exposure to BPA as it occurs with beverages and food from BPA containing vessels (such as plastics and the lining of tin cans) by adding the compound to the drinking water of breeding mice. Female pups born from BPA-consuming parents were transferred to a BPA-free environment at weaning and followed over time.

Researchers analyzed changes in the mammary gland of female offspring that were exposed to BPA through their mothers in utero and while being breast fed. The mammary glands of BPA exposed females showed an increased response to the hormone progesterone. Lifetime exposure to progesterone has been linked to increase breast cancer risk.

Furthermore, researchers  found that adult females who had been exposed to BPA in utero and while breast fed, showed a 1.5 fold increase in cell numbers in their milk ducts. This is comparable to what is seen upon similar exposure to another estrogenic compound, diethyllbestrol (DES). Uterine exposure to DES in the human population has been shown to increase the relative risk of getting breast cancer two-fold as women reach their fifties.

“While we cannot extrapolate these results directly from mice to humans, the possibility that some of the increase in breast cancer incidence observed over the past decades may be attributed to exposure to BPA cannot be dismissed,” said Brisken. “Our study suggests that pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should avoid exposure to BPA as it may affect their daughters’ breast tissue.”


Other researchers working on the study include Ayyakkannu Ayyanan, Ouahiba Laribi, Sonia Schuepbach-Mallepell, Christina Schrick, Maria Gutierrez, Tamara Tanos and Ozden Yalcin-Ozuysal of the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research; and Gregory Lefebvre and Jacques Rougemont of École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

The article, “Perinatal exposure to bisphenol A increases adult mammary gland progesterone response and cell number,” appears in the November 2011 issue of Molecular Endocrinology.

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