Apartheid victims to claim compensation from Swiss banks

Ed Fagan has also represented Holocaust-era victims Keystone Archive

An American lawyer representing victims of South Africa's former Apartheid regime is set to launch a class action against Swiss banks.

This content was published on June 16, 2002 minutes

According to the Swiss newspaper, "SonntagsZeitung", Ed Fagan - a US-based lawyer who has previously won class-action victories on behalf of Holocaust victims - will launch legal proceedings in New York on Monday against Switzerland's two largest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse.

Fagan's Swiss-based associate, Norbert Gschwend, confirmed on Sunday that 80 people had already joined the class action.

Fagan is expected to publish further details about the legal proceedings at a press conference in the Swiss city of Zurich on Monday.

The paper suggests Fagan is likely to make a claim for "at least" SFr80 billion against the banks on behalf of individuals who suffered during the Apartheid era.

"It is only right that the banks should be financially answerable for the suffering they caused the black population [of South Africa]," a South African lawyer working with Ed Fagan, Dumisa Ntsebeza, told the paper.

A spokesman for UBS, Michael Willi, said the bank had "no knowledge" of any impending lawsuit, while Credit Suisse said there were "no grounds" for a class action because the banking group had "at all times abided by the relevant laws and regulations governing the conduct of business in South Africa".

Beyond Switzerland

The "Observer" newspaper in Britain reports that claims will be made against Swiss and German banks which continued to lend money to the Apartheid regime after 1985, when international sanctions were imposed on South Africa.

The paper claims that German banks, together with a number of British and American companies which invested in South Africa, are "also in the firing line" and could face class action suits.

"Incredible as it may seem," the "Observer" quotes Fagan as saying, "financial institutions and corporations or their agents - including many that had conspired with and made possible the Nazi regime's reign of terror - were willing, even anxious, to engage in the same type of business with apartheid South Africa."

Fagan has previously represented the Swiss night guard, Christoph Meili, who saved Holocaust-era archives from being shredded at UBS.

swissinfo with agencies

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