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Switzerland seeks claimants for 2,600 dormant accounts worth millions

For anyone who may have forgotten about their fortune sitting idle in a Swiss bank account, a list published Wednesday is a must read.

The first-of-its-kind list published by the Swiss Bankers Association identifies more than 2,600 accounts with total assets estimated at 44 million Swiss francs ($44 million/41 million euros) which have been dormant for at least 60 years.

For accounts that have been idle since 1955, individuals have one year to make a claim or the assets will be transferred to the federal government, an SBA statement said.

For accounts dating from 1954 or earlier, claimants have a five-year window.

The publication of the accounts followed a law passed on January 1 which aimed in part to help give banks legal clarity on how to handle dormant assets, the SBA said.

“By publishing this information, the banks are making a last attempt to re-establish contact with the customer,” SBA chief Claude-Alain Margelish said in a statement.

“This publication gives customers and their legal heirs another opportunity to assert their claims.”

A spokeswoman for the association, Sindy Schmiegel Werner, told AFP that the legislation was pushed for by banks anxious to avoid the complications posed by dormant accounts, including some that have been idle for nearly 100 years.

Werner added that the problem of dormant accounts affected banks globally and that the SBA was at the forefront of efforts to regulate the issue.

Only accounts with more than 500 Swiss francs were listed.

The association is also looking for claimants for around 80 safety deposit boxes, which have been opened with an inventory taken, the SBA said.

Switzerland intends to publish a fresh list every year, with the 2016 version identifying accounts dormant since 1956.

Switzerland has previously published lists of dormant accounts, but only those with a direct link to victims of the Holocaust.

A 1998 agreement that sought to resolve the controversy surrounding Holocaust-era accounts saw Swiss banking giants UBS and Credit Suisse pay out $1.24 billion to a victims fund managed by New York-based judge Edward Korman.

– An international list –

The majority of names belong to Swiss nationals or those with addresses in Switzerland, but the various nationalities listed include Americans, Argentinians, Brazilians, Germans and Israelis.

Some of the account holders in the list were born in the 19th Century and some appear tied to prominent European families like the Vogues of France — who have no connection to the famous magazine.

There are families with six dormant accounts, and families with no accounts but multiple safety deposit boxes.

Among the curious entities listed is the apparently extinct Press Club of Locarno, which opened an account in 1955 and has not used it since.

Perhaps anticipating a flood of hopeful claimants seeking to access previously unknown riches, the SBA highlighted the thorough verification process requiring “concrete evidence” before a claim is considered legitimate.

Certain accounts have no corresponding names or addresses and are identified only through an ID number found in a passbook which, in theory, should be in the possession of the account holder.