* Swiss not yet asked for legal, administrative help
* Such a request necessary to freeze assets in Swiss account
* U.S. SEC filed suit against unknown traders on Friday
ZURICH, Feb 18 Swiss authorities said on Monday
they have not yet been asked to help a U.S. investigation into
alleged insider trading in call options of H.J. Heinz Co
the day before the company announced it would be sold, even
though a Zurich account is at the heart of the matter.
U.S. securities regulators filed suit on Friday against
as-yet-unidentified traders in Heinz options alleging they
traded on inside information before the company made public the
deal to be bought for $23 billion by an investor group made up
of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc and Brazil's
3G Capital Partners.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said in a
statement on Friday it had obtained "an emergency court order to
freeze assets in a Zurich, Switzerland-based trading account
that was used to reap more than $1.7 million from trading in
advance of yesterday's public announcement about the acquisition
of H.J. Heinz Company."
The order from the U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of New York freezes the traders' assets and prohibits
them from destroying any evidence, the SEC statement said.
SEC spokesman John Nester said on Monday that the assets
concerned had been frozen in the United States, not Switzerland,
though the "beneficial owners" were those allegedly behind the
Swiss account. He did not respond immediately when asked if the
U.S. authorities were in contact with their Swiss counterparts.
With the assets frozen, the SEC would have had no immediate
need for Swiss assistance in the case, although it eventually
may need help to identify the account holders.
Rainer Borer, a spokesman for the Swiss financial markets
watchdog known as FINMA, said a U.S. court cannot by itself
freeze assets in an account of a bank operating in Switzerland.
"For that, it has to ask for legal or administrative
assistance," he told Reuters. "Up to now, FINMA has not received
a U.S. request for administrative assistance in the mentioned
case of potential insider trading."
Justice ministry spokesman Folco Galli said the ministry had
not received an official request for legal assistance either.
"Either a request for administrative or legal assistance
would be necessary because a U.S. court cannot enforce a
coercive measure in Switzerland," he said.
U.S. bank Goldman Sachs has said it is co-operating
with the SEC probe. The SEC suit filed Friday refers to the
account in Switzerland as the "GS Account."
Heinz had no comment, Michael Mullen, a company spokesman,
said by email. Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital likewise
declined to comment, said Gemma Hart, a spokeswoman for the