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Swiss bank chief quits after row

The head of Switzerland's central bank Philipp Hildebrand has quit in the wake of a public uproar over his private currency deals.

The Swiss National Bank said the chairman's resignation took effect immediately and Mr Hildebrand would make a statement and release documents to the public.

His departure coincided with a Swiss parliamentary committee hearing, due to be held behind closed doors, to get answers about the deals he engaged in while leading efforts to soften the Swiss franc. At an impromptu press conference Mr Hildebrand emphasised how proud he was of his achievements and of working for financial institutions in Switzerland and international organisations such as the World Bank.

"I would like to think I have been a damn good central banker," He said. "I deeply regret these mistakes as well as the entire situation."

Switzerland has been in an uproar since news broke of the dollar swaps that netted Mr Hildebrand and his wife Kashya, a former currency trader, tens of thousands of dollars in profits last year. Last Thursday he broke weeks of silence over the deal to deny any breach of central bank rules.

It was a shocking comedown for the man who only a year earlier had become the central bank's youngest-ever chairman at 47. The former champion national swimmer had transformed himself into a financial prodigy and a champion of Swiss banking, with one publication calling him a financial "rock star."

While maintaining that he broke no central bank rules, Mr Hildebrand said a central bank chairman must be viewed as beyond reproach and he could not prove that his wife carried out the currency transactions without his explicit consent.

"I cannot once and for all prove that it was as I said it was," he said. He acknowledged the past few weeks had been "a difficult time." "This is a step that saddens me greatly," he said, adding that he would automatically relinquish his roles at the Bank for International Settlements in Basel and elsewhere.

Politicians on the Committees for Economic Affairs and Taxation were holding a confidential session to examine whether Mr Hildebrand and his wife traded currency from accounts other than the one at the Basel-based Bank Sarasin.

The Swiss central bank, like most others, prohibits senior officials from engaging in personal trading where they might profit from insider knowledge about an upcoming monetary policy decision. However, the bank cleared Mr Hildebrand of any wrongdoing in a report in late December.

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