Bank chief ‘unaware of wife’s investment’

Swiss central bank chief Philipp Hildebrand did not know about his wife's purchase of $504,000 dollars until the day after the transaction, a report by the bank's auditor said on Wednesday.

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) took the step of publishing the document following a slew of media reports about currency trading by the chairman and his partner Kashya.

Hildebrand will himself talk publicly about the affair on Thursday, the SNB said in a statement, saying that some reports were partly incorrect.

The Swiss government meanwhile expressed its confidence in the bank chief.

“From the emails available to us, it appears that Philipp Hildebrand was not aware of the transaction,” said a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers of the purchase of $504,000 for 400,000 Swiss francs on August 15th.

Hildebrand instructed his bank, Banque Sarasin in Basel, to only act on his instruction in the future, it said.

In a news report to be published on Thursday, Swiss weekly newspaper Weltwoche calls Hildebrand a “speculator” who benefited from several dollar and euro transactions on the foreign exchange market between March and October last year.

The SNB says the couple’s transactions did not flout central bank rules and it published a copy of the regulations on Wednesday along with the auditors’ report.

Switzerland’s Federal Council said on Thursday it had “full confidence” in Hildebrand after an audit carried out by the Federal Audit Office also found no evidence of foul play.

“The audit revealed no indication of any transactions in which inside knowledge of confidential facts had been used or which were contrary to the rules of the SNB,” said a statement.

“The Federal Council has no reason to question the validity of the audit findings and has expressed its full confidence in Mr Hildebrand.”

The probe was reportedly launched after SVP figurehead Christoph Blocher went to then president Micheline Calmy-Rey with extracts of banking documents.

Blocher, a critic of SNB policy under Hildebrand, has so far remained silent on the matter.

Banque Sarasin in Basel said that one of its employees had admitted illegally transmitting banking details to a lawyer close to the SVP.

In a further claim Weltwoche said the same employee had lodged a complaint against Hildebrand for alleged insider trading.

The SNB on September 6th imposed a bottom limit for the franc against the euro to stop the currency soaring and biting into Swiss exporters’ earnings.

The action saw both the euro and the dollar rise against the franc.

Three weeks earlier Kashya Hildebrand, who runs an art gallery in Zurich, said she bought dollars due to the fact that they had “hit a very low level and become ridiculously cheap.”

In a written statement to SF Swiss television, Hildebrand said she had always followed the exchange market and had worked in the banking sector for 15 years between 1984 and 1999 before moving into art.

On August 15th the dollar was worth 0.79 francs compared to 0.92 on October 4th.

According to Weltwoche, Hildebrand made 75,000 francs ($80,500) on the purchase and sale of $500,000 between these dates.

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Swiss National Bank hit by new spray paint attack

A woman activist spray painted a message on a billboard outside Switzerland’s central bank on Friday in an echo of a similar protest last year in which an 86-year-old woman was arrested.

Swiss National Bank hit by new spray paint attack
File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The incident occurred as the Swiss National Bank (SNB) held its annual general meeting in Bern, the Blick newspaper reported.

An unidentified woman sprayed the message 'please remember why we founded you' on the billboard in red paint.

According to the paper, the protestor was campaigning in support of the campaign for monetary reform, which goes to a nationwide vote in June.

READ ALSO: Why the Swiss National Bank needs more gold

Known as the Vollgeld Initiative in German and the Initiative Monnaie Pleine in French, the initiative calls an end to traditional bank lending and for the SNB to be the only financial institution able to issue money. 

The SNB opposes the sovereign money initiative.

With the help of other activists, the spray painter removed the words a short time later.

Almost exactly one year ago an 86-year-old woman was arrested after spraying an anti-war message outside the SNB in a case that drew worldwide attention.

READ ALSO: Woman, 86, arrested for spraying anti-war graffiti on Swiss National Bank

The peace activist spray-painted ‘Money for weapons kills' on the billboard. 

She was campaigning on behalf of the Group for a Switzerland without an Army (GSsA) which had launched a popular initiative to ban Swiss financing of any company that produces arms. 

If it gathers the required 100,000 signatures by October 2018, the issue will go to a national referendum.