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Another source of transatlantic friction continues to simmer

brussels bureau

Another source of transatlantic friction continues to simmer


In the SWIFT case, over data privacy, the European Central Bank has said it knew of U.S. requests to look at records of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications. This was in a search for terrorism-related activities. But the central bank’s supervision role did not cover this.

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet was addressing a hearing in the European Parliament. He said: “The ECB became aware of the subpoenas being imposed on SWIFT in June 2002. This information could according to these documents neither be transmitted to third parties nor be made public.”

The ECB is part of a group of banks that oversee the Brussels-based SWIFT, a global network for transmitting information between banks. Francis Vanbever is its Chief Financial Officer. He said: “All compliance with the U.S. treasury subpoena has been legal, limited, targeted, protected, audited and overseen. It has also been compulsory.”

Vanbever told the hearing that the company very strongly objected to opinions expressed last week by Belgium’s data privacy commission – that SWIFT did not fully respect Belgian and European laws. It said its legal advisors in 2002 had told it it was not going to contravene Belgian or EU law.

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