UBS denies blocking cash to pro-Palestinian groups

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Swiss bank UBS denied Wednesday it had blocked payments to some Swiss Palestinian support groups for political reasons, claiming it had to respect "legal requirements" for sanctions.

The Swiss newspaper Le Matin reported that a dozen Swiss sympathisers of some Palestinian support groups had had their payments to those associations blocked by UBS.

The bank said its decision to "limit payments to Palestine" dated back to 2008.

"It is not linked to political motives but to an evaluation of the risks involved in such transactions," it added in a statement e-mailed to AFP.

As a global business, "UBS must respect hundreds of legal requirements. Notably linked to international decisions on sanctions and embargos," it added.

However, the bank said payments for "recognised organisations" such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, the charity Caritas, or the United Nations, including their employees in the field, were still allowed.

UBS said it had also decided in 2005 to cut off business relations with clients in Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Myanmar, Sudan and Syria.

In 2008, US victims and relatives of victims of attacks in Israel launched a 500-million-dollar lawsuit against UBS in the United States alleging the bank financed terrorism by doing business with Iran, according to their lawyer.

The summons noted that Iran and the groups it supported were subject to strict US government sanctions.

UBS had rejected the accusations were without foundation.

However, a spokesman for the bank said Wednesday that the lawsuit was worth 50 million dollars and the case was dismissed by a New York district court judge in August 2009. He added that another legal complaint was pending.

© 2011 AFP

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