Leaked cables suggest Swiss-US deal on bank, detainees

Thursday, January 20, 2011

OSLO/BERNE - Switzerland accepted Guantanamo detainees as part of a deal with the US to limit a probe against Swiss banking group UBS, a Norwegian daily reported Thursday, citing leaked US diplomatic cables.

The agreement between Washington and Berne was outlined in US diplomatic cables leaked by self-proclaimed whistle-blower site WikiLeaks and quoted by the daily Aftenposten.

The deal also included moving against a Swedish firm, Colenco, that had business with Iran, the newspaper said.

Doris Leuthard, the Swiss minister named in the cables, was quick to deny a direct connection between the three matters.

“There is no direct link between the UBS file and the Guantanamo detainees or the closing of Colenco,” Leuthard told reporters in Berne shortly after the cables were published.

But a cable from July 2009 described how Leuthard, who then held the economics portfolio, informed US embassy officials of Berne’s decision to shut down Swedish firm Colenco’s commercial activities in Iran as requested by the US.

Colenco was cooperating with Iran in building a nuclear reactor.

According to other cables obtained by WikiLeaks, there were fears the

technology could be diverted for Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons


The matter was discussed at a February 2009 meeting between the foreign ministers of both countries, the July 2009 cable said.

Leuthard said Switzerland was prepared to accept “several detainees” from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba, the cable said.

In return, Switzerland wanted to limit a US probe into banking giant UBS concerning more than 52,000 US clients. US tax authorities believed they were withholding billions of dollars in unpaid taxes.

The US-Swiss deal resulted in UBS handing over details of some 4,450 US clients and helped shore up UBS, the newspaper said.

Leuthard, who now hold the transport and energy dossier in the Swiss government after a recent reshuffle, said in response to the Aftenposten publication that her country had “independently” decided to take Guantanamo detainees.

Three Guantanamo detainees eventually received Swiss refuge in late 2009 and early last year, including one Uzbek citizen in the southern city of Geneva and two Uighur brothers who were settled in the remote mountains of the Jura, in the north-west of the country.

Aftenposten in December said it had acquired full access to WikiLeaks’ cache of some 250,000 US diplomatic cables.

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