Wanted: victims of apartheid

A US attorney is seeking plaintiffs to sue Swiss banks which financed South Africa’s former apartheid regime, a Swiss newspaper said on Sunday.

Attorney Ed Fagan placed advertisements in South African newspapers this weekend asking for possible victims of such financing to come forward, said Le Matin.

The advertisements read: “Wanted! victims of Apartheid wishing to join class action for restitution and damages from Swiss and European banks contact: Gloria International Multiconsulting. Herisau. Switzerland.” They were confirmed by Norbert Gschwend, head of Gloria International Multiconsulting, which is a partner of Fagan.

Gschwend said he expected hundreds of responses and hoped to file a class action in New York within the next three months.

A successful action could yield damages of between $50-million and $100-million dollars, the executive predicted.

Gschwend said Fagan and another executive of Gloria had travelled to South Africa this weekend to enlist the aid of non-governmental organisations.

Fagan was at the centre of a successful $1,2-billion settlement in the United States by Jewish groups, Holocaust victims and their heirs who tried to recover bank accounts hoarded by Swiss banks after World War II.

Le Matin reported last month that South African debt-relief campaigners were considering lawsuits because of Swiss financial ties with apartheid.

It said members of the South African branch of the debt-relief group Jubilee 2000 were considering seeking damages from the Swiss authorities or Swiss banks because of their role in providing loans to the apartheid regime.

Jubilee 2000 has accused Swiss banks of continuing to provide loans and servicing debt from 1986 and into early 1990s which it believes helped the apartheid regime maintain its grip on power in South Africa despite international sanctions.

Switzerland, which is not a member of the United Nations, did not take part in the UN sanctions regime against apartheid, except for the embargo on arms sales. Swiss companies and banks openly pursued business ties in South Africa at the time. -AFP

Mail & Guardian ( Johannesburg), December 10, 2001

Categories: Africa, Odious Debts, South Africa

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