Christoph Meili

Christoph Meili
Christoph Meili holding two tomes of Nazi-era documents of the Union Bank of Switzerland; photographed in 1997 by the journalist Gisela Blau Guggenheim.

Christoph Meili (born April 21, 1968)[1] is a Swiss whistleblower and Swiss-American security professional.

In early 1997, Meili worked as a night guard at the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS, precursor of UBS AG) in Zurich, Switzerland. He discovered that officials at UBS were destroying documents about orphaned assets, i.e., credit balances of deceased Jewish clients whose heirs' whereabouts were unknown. Also in the shredding room were books from the German Reichsbank.[2] They listed stock accounts for companies involved in the holocaust, including BASF, Degussa, and Degesch.[3] They also listed real-estate records for Berlin property that had been forcibly taken by the Nazis, placed in Swiss accounts, and then claimed to be owned by UBS.[4] Destruction of such documents was a violation of Swiss laws.[5]

On January 8, 1997,[6] he took some bank files home. After a telephone conversation, he handed them over to a local Jewish organization, which brought the documents to the police, and eventually to the press, which published the document destruction on January 14, 1997.[7]

The authorities of Zürich opened a judicial investigation against Meili[8] for suspected violation of the Swiss laws on banking secrecy,[9] which is an offense to be prosecuted ex officio in Switzerland.[10] After Christoph Meili and his family received death threats the family left to the United States where they were granted political asylum.[11][12][13] According to news reports, Christoph Meili and his family are the only Swiss nationals in history ever to have been granted political asylum in the United States.[11][14] On January 13, 1998, Ed Fagan filed suit on behalf of Meili against UBS, demanding a sum of 2.56 billion U.S. dollars. The settlement between the Swiss banks and the plaintiffs on the order of US $1.25 billion on August 13, 1998 also covered Meili's law suit and thus ended it.[15]

Later in 1998 the investigations of the justice of Zürich against Meili for allegedly breaking the laws on bank secrecy were cancelled,[8] but Meili did not return to his homeland until 2003. His marriage ended as he was divorced at the end of February 2002.[16] In September 2003 he visited his family in Switzerland. In the Swiss newspaper Die Weltwoche, Meili criticized Fagan for having instrumentalized him and for having let him down. He claimed to have never received the US $1 million that he should have gotten[16] according to their agreements after the settlement with the Swiss banks in 1998.[17] According to a report by the Swiss magazine Facts of March 17, 2005, he had, however, received US $750,000. (The newspaper did not state when this should have occurred.)[18] In April 2004, Fagan again launched a campaign against UBS and apparently again was supported by Meili in his endeavour.[19][20]

Meili studied communication sciences[21] right after his arrival in the United States. After completing his college degree[21] in May 2004[6] he found employment once more in the security sector. On May 14, 2005 he was naturalized as a US citizen.[21] In an interview with the Swiss newspaper Sonntagsblick on October 21, 2006, Meili re-iterated his criticism of Fagan and the Jewish organizations who had once championed him, stating again they had let him down. Meili, who then lived in Southern California, stated in that interview he was working for minimum wages.[22][23] In 2009, Meili returned to Switzerland after having become homeless.[24][25]

Effect of whistleblowing

In his book "Imperfect Justice", Stuart Eizenstat implies that the "Meili Affair" was important in the decision of Swiss banks to participate in the process of reparations for victims of Nazi looting during World War II. He wrote that the affair "did more than anything to turn the Swiss banks into international pariahs by linking their dubious behavior during and after the war to the discovery of a seemingly unapologetic attempt to cover it up now by destroying documents."[26] He also implies that the affair influenced the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) decision to create a "Humanitarian Fund for the Victims of the Holocaust",[27] and implies that it was one of a series of events influencing the London Conference on Nazi Gold of 1997.[28]


  • 1997 - Award for humanitarian values and ethics, Boys Town Jerusalem Foundation of America[29][30]
  • 1998 - Grand Prize, Honest Abe Awards
  • 1998 - Humanitarian Award, The 1939 Club (with Giusseppina Meili)[31]
  • 1999 - Seton Hall University's Humanitarian of the Year Award[11]
  • 1999 - Scholarship Fund, The 1939 Club[32][33]
  • 1999 - Humanitarian of the Year Award, Orange County, California


  1. ^ Meili, Ch.: Declaration for a Senate Commission, May 9, 1997. URL last accessed 2007-05-21.
  2. ^ Eizenstat, Stuart (2003). Imperfect Justice. New York: PublicAffairs. ISBN 158648110x.  Page 94
  3. ^ Eizenstat p 94, 95
  4. ^ Eizenstat p 95
  5. ^ Swiss parliament: Parliamentary Initiative 96.434: Bundesbeschluss betreffend die historische und rechtliche Untersuchung des Schicksals der infolge der nationalsozialistischen Herrschaft in die Schweiz gelangten Vermögenswerte; in German. Entry in force December 14, 1996. This edict was the legal foundation of the Bergier commission, constituted on December 19, 1996. Articles 4, 5, and 7 made the destruction or withholding of documents relating to orphaned assets illegal. On the dates given, see Chronology: Switzerland in World War II – Detailed Overview of the years 1994-1996. URLs last accessed 2006-10-30.
  6. ^ a b Diermeier, P.: Meili - Mission zwischen Moral und Milliarden; in German. Orell Füssli Verlag, Zürich, 2003. ISBN 3-280-06009-5.
  7. ^ Swiss parliament: Unclaimed Assets – Detailed Chronological Overview from 1997; in German. URL last accessed 2006-10-30.[dead link]
  8. ^ a b Parliament of Zürich: Protocol of the session of Monday, April 20, 1998 (Word document). URL last accessed 2006-10-30.
  9. ^ Swiss Law: Bundesgesetz über die Banken und Sparkassen (Bankengesetz, BankG), article 47 (in German). URL last accessed 2006-11-03.
  10. ^ Schwarb, T.M.: "Ich verpfeife meine Firma" – Einführung in das Phänomen Whistle-Blowing, Fachhochschule Solothurn, July 1998. In German. URL last accessed 2006-11-03.
  11. ^ a b c Bank guard enters ranks of `righteous gentiles' - Christoph Meili. National Catholic Reporter, April 16, 1999
  12. ^ U.S. Congress: Bill S.768: A bill for the relief of Michel Christopher Meili, Giuseppina Meili, Mirjam Naomi Meili, and Davide Meili; private bill sponsored by Senator Alphonse D'Amato, signed into private law 105-1 by president Bill Clinton on July 29, 1997. URL last accessed 2006-10-30.
  13. ^ Swiss parliament, Summer session 1997: Question Schlüer and the response of Federal Councillor Flavio Cotti, who claimed that the U.S. was not granting the Meilis "asylum" but a facilitated fast-track immigration. URLs last accessed 2006-10-30.
  14. ^ PRNewswire: L.A. Jewish Community Honors Christoph Meili At May 8th Dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, news agency report dated May 1, 2000. URL last accessed 2006-10-30.
  15. ^ Swiss parliament: Chronology: Switzerland in World War II – Detailed Overview of the year 1998; in German. URL last accessed 2006-10-30.
  16. ^ a b Ain, S.: Amid Personal Hardship, Rescuer of Swiss Bank Documents to Receive Payment, World Jewry, February 28, 2002; United Jewish Communities. URL last accessed 2006-10-30.
  17. ^ Meili, Ch. (interview recorded by Diermeier, P.): Christoph Meili, Die Weltwoche 38/03; 2003. In German. URL last accessed 2006-10-30.
  18. ^ Facts, Der Bumerang, Facts 05/11, p. 10; March 17, 2005. URL last accessed 2006-10-30.
  19. ^ Basler Zeitung (a Swiss newspaper): Holocaust-Gelder - neue Vorwürfe gegen UBS, April 14, 2004; in German. URL last accessed 2006-10-30.
  20. ^ SF DRS, 10 vor 10, archived TV news broadcast from April 15, 2004. URL last accessed 2006-10-30.
  21. ^ a b c Basler Zeitung: Wachmann Meili wurde US-Bürger, May 14, 2005. In German. URL last accessed 2006-10-30.
  22. ^ Hug, D.: Christoph Meili bereut alles, Sonntagsblick, October 21, 2006. In German. URL last accessed 2006-10-30.
  23. ^ Basler Zeitung: Banken-Coup: Christoph Meili möchte die Uhr zurückdrehen, October 2006. In German. URL last accessed 2006-10-30.
  24. ^ "Meili kehrt in die Schweiz zurück" (in German). Berner Zeitung. 29 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-29. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ Eizenstat, Imperfect Justice, p 94
  27. ^ Eizenstat, Imperfect Justice, p 98. He writes that the Fund was suggested to the SBA by Rainer Gut, chairman of Credit Suisse.
  28. ^ Eizenstat, Imperfect Justice, p 112-115
  29. ^ "Guard who turned over Swiss banking files seeks protection in U.S. Senate visit". CNN. 
  30. ^ Cohen, Aryeh (1997-09-17). "Swiss bank guard honored". Jerusalem Post: p. 5. "Meili was given an award for humanitarian values and ethics at Boystown Jerusalem, a religious boarding school. The prize was founded in memory of Jan Zwartendijk, an honorary Dutch diplomat who helped Jews escape from Lithuania by issuing bogus visas to Curacao." 
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^

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