SWISS MYSTERY

‘Red Fini’ And The Case Of Missing East German Millions

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Rudolfine Steindling took her secrets to the grave. She died in 2012 at the age of 78.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany is suing the Swiss bank Julius Bär to recover money that disappeared along a murky trail of withdrawals and investments. It is seeking €135 million ($178 million) in damages.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • As top manager of the Novum company, Rudolfine Steindling’s clients included Bosch, Ciba-Geigy, Voestalpine and Steyr Daimler Puch.
    • In 2013, Bank Austria lost a court battle with BvS, the German agency charged with tracking down East German money.
    • Germany is targeting Julius Bär, which in 2005 acquired CantradePrivatbank. Cantrade is accused of helping move the lost money to a safe haven.
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    Audio

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Rudolfine Steindling belonged to the upper crust of Austrian society – she wore expensive clothes and maintained a luxurious lifestyle. But she always remained an ardent advocate for Communism.

In 1951, the former East German regime became aware of “Red Fini,” as she came to be known. The government needed someone to supervise foreign trade and exchange dealings from abroad.

So the East German authorities set up the Novum company in Austria and made Ms. Steindling its top manager and sole shareholder. No Western company that wanted to do business with the East German state could ignore the well-clad lady and her fiduciary firm. She represented businesses such as Bosch, Ciba-Geigy, Voestalpine and Steyr Daimler Puch in dealings with East Germany. Ms. Steindling herself received fees in the millions and invested the money with her local bank, Bank Austria.

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