Banque du Gothard v Chambre des Recours

CourtFederal Tribunal (Switzerland)
Switzerland, Federal Tribunal.
Banque du Gothard
Chambre des Recours en Matire Pnale du Tribunal d'Appel du Canton du Tessin and Another

State immunity Jurisdictional immunity Foreign States Institutes of foreign States Vatican City Institute for Religious Works Scope of entitlement of Institute and its officials to jurisdictional immunity Attachment and execution Bank accounts Seizure of documents relating to accounts Criteria for determining which assets immune from execution Immunity of assets allegedly used for performance of sovereign functions Whether specific allocation of funds for sovereign tasks required

States Holy See Vatican City Entitlement of Holy See to sovereign immunity

States Sovereignty and independence In foreign relations Request for mutual assistance by foreign State Request for seizure of documents relating to bank deposits of Vatican City Institute Whether immunity from execution prevents seizure of documents The law of Switzerland

Summary: The facts:The Italian authorities instituted proceedings in 1982 against various persons suspected of being implicated in the illegal dealings of the Banco Ambrosiano. The proceedings also concerned the Institute for Religious Works with its seat in Vatican City. In 1983 a request for mutual legal assistance was sent by the Italian authorities to their Swiss counterparts which sought, in particular, to obtain documents relating to certain bank accounts in the name of the Institute at the Banque du Gothard. The seizure of the documents was granted and upheld on appeal by the Swiss courts. The Banque then lodged an administrative law appeal before the Federal Tribunal.

Held:The appeal was dismissed.

(1) Immunity from execution could not be claimed on the basis of diplomatic immunity since the administrators of the Institute for Religious Works did not enjoy any diplomatic status in the requested State.

(2) The assets at issuethe bank accounts concerning which information was being soughthad never been designated or attributed by the State of Vatican City for activities governed by jus imperii or the performance of State functions. On the contrary, the deposits were governed by jus gestionis and were comparable to those which a State or a bank of a foreign State could make in Switzerland.

The following is the text of the relevant part of the judgment of the Court:

The Criminal Office of Instruction attached to the Civil and Penal Tribunal of Milan instituted proceedings in 1982 against...

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