Attorney General Dr. Valentin Roschacher
October 2, 2001
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to thank you for taking the time to be here today
and for your interest in this matter.
As you know, on Saturday 15 September 2001, four days after the atrocious terrorist
attacks in the USA, the office of the Swiss Attorney General initiated its own
investigation of unknown perpetrators of criminal acts involving hijacking,
hostage taking, and murder, as well as crimes against Swiss citizens abroad
and criminal offenses on board an aircraft. This was done in an effort to clarify
any suspicion of connections between events in Switzerland and the terrorist
attacks in the USA. We have additionally established the "Task Force Terror
USA" in close cooperation with the FOP which is responsible for carrying
out this investigation. Later, FOP-Director Jean-Luc Vez will give you some
insight on the structure of this task force and how it operates.
As with all criminal investigations, we must be careful about the release of
certain information concerning the ongoing process so as not to jeapordise the
investigation itself. It is therefore not possible, while the investigation
is underway, to give you any specific details which might have an influence
on the outcome. So, in that respect, I would like to thank all of you who have
had to put up with the repeated no comment`` from my Information Director
for your understanding and patience.
Surely you are aware that these measures are taken simply to protect the integrity
of the investigation and its results.
During the last two weeks, the office of the Attorney General was not prepared
to follow every footstep and track every trace nor were we able to give a disposition
of individual names, companies, speculations or media reports. The actions we
have taken were based purely on the necessity dictated by the situation so as
to avoid releasing to the world any premature statements concerning the state
or importance of our investigation. Indeed, because of the enormous public interest
in our investigation, we have taken extra measures to insure that first a complete
und basic assessment is performed.
The basic question remains: of what value are any possible connections that
may exsist between Switzerland and the terrorist attacks in the USA and what
role is Switzerland to play in the world-wide criminal investigation and prosecution
of these attacks. An assessment that is too rash in forthcoming, based solely
on individual reports or unconfirmed information would serve more as disinformation.
I would therefore like to thank you for having given us the time to properly
assess the complete picture concerning the importance of any Swiss connection
and to present for you here today our evaluation of the situation with a certain
amount of lapsed time.
Allow me to briefly summarise the current information and the resulting assessment
concerning the Swiss preliminary investigation.
As far as we have been able to determine to this point, there is no evidence
that Switzerland played a role in the logistic planning of the September 11th
terrorist attacks in the USA other than the fact that one of the suspected terrorists
passed through the Zürich airport in transit on 8 July 2001.
There is no concrete evidence at this time that would indicate Swiss financial
institutions may have played a role in the transfer of funds connected to the
actual preparations of the terrorist acts. The investigation is being focused
at the moment in this second area. Basically, nothing is being ruled out and
we are proceeding as before by following all leads that fall within our legal
jurisdiction. We can certainly not expect to present here a conclusive assessment
after such a short time. We must realize that an investigation into the complex
world of Banking and Financial transactions takes a bit longer. For us it is
not a question of days. We are talking about an investigation that will take
the "Task Force Terror USA" weeks and months. I know that you would
like to see results and you can believe me when I tell you so would I``.
We all know however that in criminal investigations quick results are rare.
Such investigative work is time consuming, tedious and irksome, and for that
we must also be prepared. We are nevertheless fully engaged in doing everything
within our power to bring to account, in order that those responsible for the
September 11th attacks as well as all accomplices, aiders and abettors can be
brought to justice before the courts.
And now to the actual investigation:
§ Transfer M. Atta in Zürich
Mohamad Atta travelled on the morning of 8 July 2001 from Miami (SR 117) arriving
in Switzerland at the Zürich-Kloten airport. He spent several hours there
and continued his journey in the afternoon of the same day on a flight to Madrid
(SR 656). Whether or not Mohamad Atta left the airport premises during his stay
is not known at this time. It is however plausible given the nature of his visa.
Our Spanish collegues are aware of what we know and are taking further steps
to establish identities.
We know that during his brief stopover at the airport in Zürich Mohamad
Atta made four separate withdrawals from an automatic teller machine totalling
1,700 Swiss Francs. How this cash may have been used is not known at this time.
It has been further determined that he bought two pocket knives and some chocolate
(Swiss Mini Golds) in the Tax&Duty Free Store at the airport and charged
the 56 Francs with his credit card.
Concerning the pocket knives, I can tell you this: both knives were found in
Boston in the baggage of Mohamad Atta which arrived too late and never made
it onto the doomed flight.
§ Check of Hotel Stays
The thorough check of hotels which was carried out by the various cantonal police
on behalf of the Attorney General's Office has turned up no evidence of overnight
stays by any of the persons appearing on a list provided by the American law
enforcement authorities. More than 200 people were checked.
- Al Taqwa
We have also sought clarification of the activities of this particular corporation
as have the EBK (Federal Banking Commission) and the former Federal Police in
the past. There is no evidence at hand of any relevant criminal conduct. There
is no evidence to date of existing Al Taqwa accounts connected to Osama Bin
Laden. The Office of the Attorney General has therefore not frozen any bank
accounts. The Swiss Money Laundering Reporting Office is currently looking into
One person has so far been interrogated by the Office of the Attorney General.
This person reported of his own free will to the Attorney General's Office.
In order to protect the integrity of the investigation I cannot at this time
give any further information regarding the person interrogated nor the content
of that interrogation. To date, no arrests have been made.
- Tips from the Public
Several hundred tips have been received. Most of them came in during the first
days following the attacks in the USA. The majority of the tips have already
been checked out, that is to say they have been verified. Further tips are being
recieved daily and these are also being checked and verified.
§ Frozen Accounts
By order of the Attorney General one bank account in Zürich was blocked
as of 19 September and the corresponding bank documents examined. The analysis
of the account, the beneficial owner and the transactions carried out failed
to confirm initial suspicions. The account in question will be unfrozen as of
today. The appropriate order is on its way to the bank.
- Reports to the Money Laundering Reporting Office of Switzerland
A further fifteen accounts in four financial institutions were temporarily frozen
on the grounds of various reports of suspicious activity filed with the Money
Laundering Reporting Office under Art. 9 of the Swiss penal code. Before the
expiration of the legal blockage period of five working days the reported accounts
submitted to the Office of the Attorney General by the Money Laundering Reporting
Office were checked and unfrozen by the Attorney General's Office due to the
lack of sufficient evidence. Today, one account will be blocked in connection
with a report of suspicious activity under Art. 9 of the Swiss penal code received
by the Attorney General's Office from the Money Laundry Reporting Office.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to take the liberty here to make a few basic
comments. There is a tendency in the international media to treat the preliminary
investigation by the Office of the Attorney General as judicial precedent reflecting
how Switzerland as a whole deals with monies suspected to be tied to terrorism
which could have flowed through Swiss financial institutions. This tendency
is indeed understandable but arises from a limited appreciation of the tasks,
functions and responsibilities of the various authorities at the federal level
in the areas of criminal prosecution, judicial assistance, state security and
bank supervision, etc. The preliminary criminal investigation by the Office
of the Attorney General is merely one of the efforts being undertaken in Switzerland
in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. The experts here today from
the Finance and State Departments will bring you up to date on efforts outside
of our investigations related to the international charges that Switzerland
could have served as a pivotal location for monies connected to the suspected
terrorists; efforts which had already been underway before 11 September as well
as those efforts which will continue to be undertaken.
Let me here, as the government's chief prosecuting authority, make something
perfectly clear once and for all. From the standpoint of the Swiss prosecution,
banking secrecy poses absolutely no problem and I emphasis once again, not even
the slightest problem. For me as the prosecuting authority, there is no such
thing as banking secrecy. Sufficient suspicion is enough to have any account
in Switzerland frozen and all corresponding documents made available to the
Swiss prosecuting authorities for examination and in cases of requests
for judicial assistance, made available to foreign prosecuting authorities as
well. The Office of the Attorney General is completely assured of the support
of the banks from the first moment of any investigation.
There is absolutely no problem with the cooperation of Swiss banks in our investigation,
for which I would like to express my gratitude at this point.
The problems lie entirely elsewhere; namely with international cooperation.
Assumptions of terrorist connections are not sufficient for the work of the
prosecution. As prosecuting authorities we do not work with mere assumptions.
We proceed only on the basis of probable cause. We need in every instance concrete
and substantial evidence of a relevant criminal offence or connection. We also
need this concrete and substantial evidence from the prosecuting authorities
of other countries to insure the successful outcome of the work being done in
our Swiss proceedings. In this regard, I would like to make it known here that
the Office of the Swiss Attorney General will this week request the judicial
assistance of the U.S. authorities. The official request for judicial assistance
has been prepared and will be sent this week on its way to the U.S. Department
of Justice. We are also considering paying a visit to our American collegues
in the USA in order to expidite and facilitate the necessary exchange of information
as part of the world-wide cooperation of the prosecution for the clarification
of the acts of September 11.
In connection with that I would like to here once again state that I can absolutely
not comprehend how Swiss authorities can be accused of dilatory conduct in the
investigation of the acts of September 11. I simply refuse to accept these accusations
on behalf of the prosecuting authorities of the federal government and the cantons
who competently support us. The opposite is true. After the attacks of September
11, we did not wait to act. Rather, within the framework of our legal options
after official notification that Swiss citizens were among the victims,
under Art. 5 of the Swiss penal code initiated our own proceedings without hesitation
in order to quickly and decisively fulfill our part of the investigation into
the acts of September 11 in New York, Washington and Pittsburgh. We have made
clear our readiness for international cooperation at every opportunity and have
offered to work together in every possible way.
It is counterproductive for the world-wide fight against terrorist activities
if Switzerland is to be viewed on the international stage against a backdrop
of whispering suspicions that terrorists are benifiting, while at the same time
we are receiveing either incomplete or no information that would enable us to
perform our job as the Swiss prosecuting authority in bringing the likely perpetrators
to justice. The clarification of these acts can only be accomplished through
the combined efforts of police and prosecutors in different countries. Police
and prosecuting authorities of all countries are pulling together in the same
direction. We are working hand in hand. Our common goal is to bring the authours
of the terrorist attacks to justice. The Swiss prosecuting authorities are prepared
to fulfill their part in this international, world-wide effort. We shall not
overestimate our role. Since according to our knowledge, Switzerland played
no central role in the preparations for the attacks of 11 September, the Swiss
prosecuting authorities will not be key players`` in the world-wide fight
against those who carried out these cowardly attacks in the USA. We will however
take our place and employ all the means available to the prosecuting authorities
of Switzerland so that those responsible for the attacks, as well as their aiders
and abettors, will be brought to justice before the courts.