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Solar cell con man ordered to repay heirs

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The Quant sports car on display at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show. Photo: flickr
13:08 CEST+02:00
A 47-year-old man from the canton of Aargau, found guilty of duping a wealthy Zurich woman into investing 44 million francs in a solar cell "invention", is appealing a court order to pay the money back.

The impostor pretended to have revolutionized the alternative energy market and even exhibited a sports car at the Geneva Motor Show in 2010 to showcase the technology, the newspaper reported online on Tuesday.

The solar cell appears to have been as fraudulent as his scientific credentials (a doctorate in physics, which he reportedly bought), the canton of Zug’s supreme court ruled in a decision reported by Blick and other Swiss media.

The man, the son of Italian immigrants, convinced an elderly trading company heiress to invest 44 million francs in NLV, a letter box company based in the canton of Zug, Blick said.

The woman, a resident from Zurich’s Gold Coast, met the fraudster in 2000 and succumbed to his charms by investing in his “revolutionary” technology, the newspaper reported.

Several years later, the woman had second thoughts about the investment and launched legal proceedings to get her money back.

A Zurich court and and the Swiss Federal Court both ruled that the man was not guilty of malicious intent and could not be charged with fraud, particularly given the fact the woman had plenty of business experience, the Neue Zuger Zeitung reported.

The woman died in 2011 at the age of 89 but her heirs pursued the case.

The defendant told the Zug supreme court that the woman gave him millions of francs because she loved him and so that she would not have to leave money to her descendants.

The court said that while the woman may have wanted to help him out financially to the detriment of her heirs, she did so believing the con man was a qualified scientist and that the solar cell was a real invention.

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A website from NLV Solar shows the man posing with Prince Albert of Monaco, who is seated in the "Quant" sports car, which managed to get coverage from magazines such as Car and Driver.

The court, upholding the judgment of a lower court, ruled that he intentionally misled the elderly woman and ordered him to repay the money.

But the convicted man told Blick that he planned to appeal the case to the federal court to get the “right” decision.

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