Adolf Ogi   Letter 02   05-Jun-2000   Does Switzerland fear US trial of Lazarenko?
"To what degree can it be said that Swiss reparation payments to Jews are ultimately coming out of Ukrainian pockets?" Lubomyr Prytulak
June 05, 2000

Adolf Ogi
President, Swiss Confederation

Adolf Ogi:

Pavlo Lazarenko going on trial in San Francisco

The newspapers are reporting that Pavlo Lazarenko former Prime Minister of Ukraine under the administration of President Leonid Kuchma has been indicted in the United States on 31 criminal counts, including conspiracy, money laundering, transporting stolen property, and having stolen $114 million.  If convicted on all counts, Lazarenko could face a sentence of up to 370 years in prison.

But the Swiss say they want him

What particularly interested me about these newspaper accounts is the detail that Switzerland is seeking the extradition of Pavlo Lazarenko to stand trial in Switzerland for money laundering.  This Swiss request might strike some people as disingenuous because of the probability that if Pavlo Lazarenko is tried anywhere at all, then evidence is likely to be brought forward that Swiss institutions collaborated with him in stealing from the Ukrainian people and in laundering the obviously-stolen money.  If Lazarenko were to be tried in Switzerland, then an additional danger would be that some of the pimps, drug lords, gun runners, dictators, and corrupt politicians who today keep Swiss bank vaults topped up might upon seeing Switzerland's unsympathetic treatment of one of their own be persuaded to place their money in less judgmental hands.

Three steps in Switzerland's preferred treatment of Pavlo Lazarenko

One wonders, therefore, whether the Swiss request to extradite Pavlo Lazarenko is motivated not by a desire to try him in Switzerland, but rather by a desire to not see him tried anywhere.  In 1998, Switzerland already demonstrated to the world what it considers to be its preferred handling of Pavlo Lazarenko:

(1) Arrest Pavlo Lazarenko.  In this way, Switzerland takes credit for being tough on economic crime, and for having hands too clean to handle stolen money.

(2) Next, release Pavlo Lazarenko on $2.59 million bail.  In this way, Switzerland transfers into the pockets of the Swiss (whose per capita GDP in 1998 was $26,400) wealth which had been created by the sweat of Ukrainians (whose per capita GDP in 1998 was $2,200).

(3) Finally, allow Pavlo Lazarenko to flee Switzerland.  In this way, Switzerland avoids inculpating itself in any trial, avoids alienating its many criminal depositors, and finalizes the transfer of the above $2.59 million of the Ukrainian people's money to Swiss ownership.

Fifteen questions for the Swiss president

You might be able to overturn the above cynical interpretation of Swiss motives if you took the trouble to answer the following questions:

(1) When a Ukrainian politician with an annual salary of $3,000 deposits tens or hundreds of millions of dollars into personal, secret Swiss bank accounts, then what do Swiss bankers imagine is the origin of these funds?

(2) Would it be violating Swiss banking laws to disclose the total number of Ukrainian politicians who had deposited at least $1 million into Swiss banks?

(3) If the number of Ukrainian politicians whose theft was made possible by the Swiss readiness to hide it for them is substantial, then would it be fair to say that Switzerland had made a substantial contribution toward the devastation of Ukraine's economy that we are witness to today?

(4) Does Switzerland publish the total amounts for various countries of bail money forfeited to Switzerland by nationals of those countries?  One would like to see to what degree bail forfeiture added to Swiss income, and from which countries this forfeited bail money originated.  To further fill out this picture, how many countries in the world would you estimate are harder to enter or leave illegally (as by individuals prohibited from doing so by conditions of their bail) than Switzerland, given its small size, and the natural barriers provided by its mountains, and the difficulty of bribing officials who enjoy a high standard of living?

(5) How many foreigners who deposited at least $100 million in Swiss banks (Ukrainian prosecutors are accusing Pavlo Lazarenko of having stolen $700 million) have ever been convicted in Swiss courts of theft or money laundering or anything like that, and sentenced to prison terms in Switzerland?  What proportion of all foreign depositors of at least $100 million would that constitute?

(6) If the answer to the preceding question is zero or close to zero big foreign depositors sentenced to prison terms in Switzerland, then what keeps the Swiss extradition request for Pavlo Lazarenko from being viewed as a Swiss attempt to free Lazarenko so as to keep the Swiss collaboration in his crimes from coming to public attention in any trial, and so as to reassure other criminal depositors of Switzerland's loyalty to them?

(7) What prosecutions of Swiss officials or financial institutions are currently in progress for the crime of having collaborated with Pavlo Lazarenko in the stealing and laundering of Ukrainian money?

(8) How much of the amount currently deposited in Pavlo Lazarenko's name or rather, under his number in Switzerland do you estimate might ever be returned to the Ukrainian people, and how long will it take?

(9) If Swiss government officials were allowed to deposit money in secret Swiss accounts, then what do you estimate would be the effect on the rate of economic crime within Switzerland?  Filling out our picture on this question, it would be helpful to know whether Swiss law permitted you yourself to have a secret Swiss bank account, and whether you did in fact have one?

(10) If the Swiss recognize that allowing the President of Switzerland to have a secret Swiss bank account would be damaging to Switzerland, then does Switzerland also recognize that allowing President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine to have a secret Swiss bank account must similarly be damaging to Ukraine?

(11) To what degree does Swiss theft of Ukrainian money help offset the Swiss losses of making payments to Jewish groups for Swiss transgressions during WW II?  Put another way, to what degree can it be said that Swiss reparation payments to Jews are ultimately coming out of Ukrainian pockets?

(12) Do you anticipate that the Ukrainian people will ever be able to win reparation payments for the damage that the Swiss are inflicting upon them today, in the same way that the Jewish people are currently winning reparation payments for the damage that the Swiss inflicted upon them half a century ago?

(13) Can you provide an estimate of the proportion of foreign deposits in secret Swiss accounts that originate from illegal activities?  One can imagine this information becoming relevant if, say, today's corrupt Ukrainian politicians were lynched during an uprising, and half a century from now their descendants took steps to reclaim for themselves the secret deposits of their lynched forbears.  Generally, if it is the case that any funds deposited in secret accounts have a good chance of being stolen (in which category I include funds originating from criminal activity), then whether these funds should at some later date be released to descendants of the thief or to the victims of his thievery becomes an open question.

(14) Does Switzerland publish information on movements to boycott Swiss exports in retaliation for Switzerland's collaboration in criminal activities throughout the world?

(15) What might be the reasons that the world press avoids asking Swiss representatives such questions as these fifteen?  To what extent would it be fair to say that on certain key topics, the world press cannot be trusted to provide a fair account?

Lubomyr Prytulak