Blocher, strategist for right-wing People’s Party, ironically under suspicion for breaking bank secrecy laws
ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – The search Tuesday 20 March by Zurich police of both the home and the office of Christophe Blocher startled the Swiss political world, in part because Blocher has been a staunch supporter of Swiss bank secrecy.
The searches were ordered by Zurich’s public prosecutor, after an official inquiry was opened, making it official that Blocher is under suspicion for breaking bank secrecy laws at the end of 2011.
He was part of a chain of at three people who saw private bank information for an account belonging to the Swiss National Bank (SNB) chairman and it was Blocher who contacted the Swiss president to suggest that the head of the Swiss central bank may have illegally profited from a personal currency transaction.
Blocher was on the receiving end of copies of private bank account information for Philipp Hildebrand, then head of the Swiss National Bank, in December. The two had clashed, and Blocher made no secret of his desire to see Hildebrand go.
An employee at the bank where Hildebrand and his wife had a personal account became suspicious about the sale of a large amount of currency. He took the information to a lawyer and politician, who contacted Blocher. The information was shared with then-President Micheline Calmy-Rey and it was leaked to the press.
The end result was that Hildebrand resigned in early January, the central bank hired an outside firm to investigate and Hildebrand was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing, but the incident resulted in the SNB tightening its rules for board members’ own transactions, for greater transparency.
Timing, of the essence, for opening the investigation and for the search
La Liberté in Fribourg quotes a former police officer and vice’president of the UDC, Yves Perrin, as saying the searches were inevitable. “I’m surprised, though, that they weren’t carried out earalier because, with the passage of time, proof becomes harder to find. If I were in possession of compromising documents or materials, I would have lit a fire in the fireplace long ago.” That said, he adds, not finding proof is not proof of innocence, either.
Timing in the affair has been and remains a critical issue, reports the Tribune de Geneve: Blocher’s lawyer is reported as saying his client is invoking parliamentary immunity, which means that the materials seized, reportedly including Blocher’s cell phone and computer, are under lock and key while a parliamentary commission decides if the charges against him are linked to his role in parliament.