Even though Swiss banks finally coughed up $1.25 billion last August in an out-of-court settlement of Holocaust survivors’ claims, the country’s image remains badly soiled by such disclosures, which also included accusations that they laundered gold looted by the Nazis. Swiss officials are convinced that such revelations –- and the stonewalling that came between facts and reparations –- cost them the 2006 Winter Olympics, which last weekend were awarded to the Italian city of Turin rather than Swiss front-runner Sion. So they’re bargaining with their only chip –- the secrecy of their banks. In the last few years, the world’s most discreet bankers have blown the whistle on former prime minister Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan and kleptocrat Mobutu Sese Seko of the former Zaire. The Swiss are only too glad to add Milosevic to that distinguished list –- but considering their credibility these days, it would help if they actually found some of the money.
Swiss bankers just ain’t what they used to be. The federal police office of Switzerland has frozen any and all funds belonging to Slobodan Milosevic and four of his high-ranking Serb cohorts. All it took was a request from the Hague international war-crimes tribunal and the Swiss, long the favored financial refuge of the rich and shady, were ready to play ball. One thing: Despite claims by NATO officials that Slobo has been socking it away in not only Switzerland but Greece, Russia, Cyprus and Lebanon, the Swiss haven’t found any money yet. Which is no reason not to cooperate when you’re bending over backward to shake that "Hitler’s banker" label.