O 150805Z DEC 78
FM BERN (89-6) (P)
TO DIRECTOR (89-4286) IMMEDIATE 413-K14
Rebercab, December 6 and 8, 1978.
Legat has held extensive discussions with [several words deleted under national security exemption] to try to find way in which information can be obtained regarding Swiss bank accounts.
Possibilities discussed are:
(1) Formal request pursuant to US-Swiss treaty on mutual assistance in criminal matters.
(2) US Government’s hiring a Swiss lawyer to file civil claim to recover cost of returning bodies to US.
(3) US Ambassador to Switzerland making personal appeal to Swiss Minister of Justice and police to request Union Bank of Switzerland for information.
Option two has disadvantage that, even if it could be proven US Government had a valid claim to the funds, the only thing we can ultimately get would be funds, but not information.
PAGE TWO BER 89-6 UNCLAS EFTO
Option three has disadvantages: (1) that it might necessitate the use of the great political pressure which could use up considerable goodwill and (2) if the Swiss minister agreed, he could not compel the bank to comply with a request. The Union Bank of Switzerland has the reputation of being very, very intractable, and it is believed they might well refuse to furnish the information on a voluntary basis.
Option one has the disadvantage that the presence of funds in Switzerland cannot be directly linked to the criminal act of murder of a US Congressman. However, Legat, [name deleted] and the Deputy Chief of Mission and Political/Economic Counselor, US Embassy, Bern, agree that this is the most desirable course of action if at all possible.
Legat is aware of possible charges of investigating a religious organization; however, in order to establish the basis for a formal request pursuant to US-Swiss treaty on mutual assistance in criminal matters, the investigation must be broadened so that the funds in Switzerland can be logically linked to an investigation of criminal activity which is covered by the treaty.
For example, an investigation might be considered for ITSP or FBW based on transfers of funds which are suspected to have been embezzled
PAGE THREE BER 89-6 UNCLAS EFTO
from a tax-exempt religious foundation into a private bank account.
However, such an approach must be discussed with, and authorized by, the US Attorney in San Francisco. The Bureau, to, may want to discuss this approach with the Department Justice.
If the US Attorney in San Francisco authorizes such an approach, Legat is prepared to assist by drafting a formal request in obtaining prior Swiss approval of the draft. In that case, Legat needs to know under which statutes the US Attorney desires to make the request and a general statement of results of investigation which would support such an investigation.
The submission of a formal request also has the advantage that as soon as assurances have been given that the US will file such request, Legat can ask the Swiss to block the accounts pending receipt of the formal request. [Sentence deleted under national security exemption]
In the interim, Legat has arranged with the [two lines deleted under national security exemption] hoping that the banks will take internal action should an attempt be made to withdraw the funds.
PAGE FOUR BER 89-6 UNCLAS EFTO
For information of San Francisco, in two telephone calls with FBIHQ evening of December 14, 1978, Legat advised that the Public Affairs Officer (the PAO), US Embassy, Bern, had received an inquiry from a major US news magazine regarding Terri Buford, alleged defector from the People’s Temple, and Mark Lane, lawyer, who reportedly were en route to Bern, Switzerland, to withdraw money from banks. They were being closely followed by Charles Gary [Garry], also former lawyer of People’s Temple, who apparently would attempt to prevent withdrawal of the funds.
The PAO later received another call from a California newspaper which stated that Lane had been in Paris and was already in Switzerland. The caller stated that one of the accounts was at the Swiss Bank Corporation in Kriens, Switzerland.
UACB, Legat is making this information available to [name deleted]. Request of Bureau:
1. Retransmit to San Francisco.
2. Coordinate with US Department of Justice.
1. Discuss with US Attorney and advise Legat of decision.
2. Advise Legat, by return cable, of any information developed regarding additional Swiss bank accounts.