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UniCredit Loses $324 Million Communist-Era Case, Will Appeal

Bank Austria AG, a UniCredit SpA unit, lost a Zurich retrial over German demands for repayment of more than 245 million euros ($324 million) linked to the former East German Communist Party.

A Zurich high court upheld its 2010 decision to order Bank Austria to restore the funds to the German government, said Martin Halama, a spokesman for the Vienna-based unit. The retrial was ordered last year.

When the dispute first went to court in 1994, Germany said Bank Austria’s former AKB Privatbank Zuerich unit helped launder 250 million deutsche marks ($173 million) that vanished from the accounts of two former East German trading companies after the fall of communism. Germany said the funds were East German state assets that AKB helped shift to the Austrian Communist Party in the 1990s after German reunification. Germany is also seeking interest on the amount dating from 1992.

Bank Austria has denied wrongdoing and said it had evidence contradicting Germany’s claims. Germany is being represented by Bundesanstalt fuer vereinigungsbedingte Sonderaufgaben, the legal successor of the group that was in charge of managing the assets of the former East Germany.

Bank Austria plans to appeal in the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, Halama said. The verdict was first reported by Der Standard.

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