Swiss newspapers are reporting that two children of a Swiss asset manager were interrogated by US customs as to the whereabouts of their father, what their father did, whether their father made trips to the US, etc. They were entering the US to visit their grandparents. Sorry, interrogation of children looks like something from the Gestapo playbook. Here’s an article on it in French:
Here is a translation for the first couple paragraphs by Innocente:
“What a holiday! On a beautiful Sunday in May, two teenagers from Geneva and children of an asset manager took off from Geneva Airport. They left for the U.S. to visit their grandparents, who live in that country, while their parents remained in Switzerland. Upon arriving at the airport of a large city *, these two minors were given special attention of police. “Where is your dad? What does your dad do for a living? Has your dad ever worked in the United States? “Both young men were subject to these questions and others for six hours at the offices of the police. They weree not allowed to contact people outside. Throughout the questioning their parents and grandparents received no information. These facts, reported by a Swiss lawyer, suggest what a large part of the Swiss financial center have been fearing: the U.S. authorities have already begun to exploit the (employment) data delivered in April by five banks….”
Here is a partial translation thanks to Jefferson Tomas:
The banks recommend that their current and former employees whose names were transmitted to the other side of the Atlantic avoid going to the US. But such a precaution seems to be quite insufficient, considering the number of extradition treaties that exist. “I encourage my clients not to leave Switzerland” said Douglas Hornung, Attorney at Law in Geneva, who represents approximately 40 employees of banks involved in this matter.The disagreements go much further than a limited choice of vacation destinations, or family visits that must be postponed. Few banks in Switzerland or elsewhere, perhaps none at all, are interested in employing a “listed” bank employee from one of the 5 banks who gave data to the Department of Justice in order to avoid criminal prosecution. Careers risk being derailed because of this. « Banks are not afraid to expose their employees to potentially devastating consequences » wrote another newspaper “Le Temps” last month.
A double unknown makes the situation worse: nobody knows how the Yankee justice will use the information that they have harvested. Thousands of people are unaware that they are involved. [Sounds like many USPs] “If one had to inform everybody, one would be talking about thousands of persons…”, said the CEO of Credit Suisse, Brady Dougan [He is American I believe], “…If an employee is concerned, they can ask for information.” Ex-employees are only rarely informed.
Doubts about legality
This matter has caused accusations of treason in the Swiss financial world. Opinions of [legal] experts have only reinforced this. The Swiss Federal Commissioner on Data Privacy, Hanspeter Thür, has continually repeated his doubts about the legality of delivering employee data to the American administration. “The employer does not have the right to reveal the names of its employees. If it is compelled to do so, it must inform the employees, and cover any damages and legal fees, warns Thomas Geiser, Professor of Law at the University of Saint-Gallen.
The five banks implicated in the matter can certainly defend themselves. The Federal Council formally authorized the transfer to the DOJ of identity data concerning the 10’000 employees. This is inconsistent: in 1997, in exactly the same sort of circumstances, two banks asked for a similar authorization to respond to DOJ requests. The Federal Council refused it at that time considering that Swiss banking laws prevented such.