• Switzerland's news in English
 

Valais wine kingpin held as fraud scandal grows

Published: 15 Jun 2014 23:55 GMT+02:00

Dominique Giroud, 43, was taken into custody on Wednesday on suspicion of ordering the hacking of computers belonging to journalists who were investigating him over allegations of fraud.
   
He has been remanded in custody until July 14th.

If found guilty, he could be sentenced to up to five years behind bars.
   
A professional hacker, private detective and Swiss intelligence agent have also been arrested in connection with the case, the Geneva prosecutor's office said on Friday.
   
Giroud, whose company Giroud Vins is based in the southwestern canton of Valais -- Switzerland's largest wine-growing region -- has been dogged by scandals for years.
   
His reputation has been so tarnished that he has even tried to change the business's name to Chateau Constellation, although it was rejected by regional authorities.
   
Giroud opened a small-scale business in 1995 with reportedly just 1.5 hectares of vineyards to his name and saw that swell to an estate of around 50 hectares.
   
His castle-like winery on the outskirts of Sion, Valais's capital and largest town, opened its doors in 2008 and is reportedly valued at around 15 million francs ($17 million).
   
Giroud claims to sell up to nine million litres of wine each year, and is estimated to rake in around 50 million francs in sales, according to Swiss weekly Le Matin Dimanche.
   
With his ballooning fortune he sponsored numerous sports clubs across Switzerland, opened a restaurant in Singapore and started a chain of Wine Universe stores, the paper reported on Sunday.

 'Giroud is Scarface'

The wine producer is also said to be renowned for his ruthless tactics.
   
"Giroud is Scarface," one unnamed Valais wine industry source told the paper, referring to Al Pacino's hubristic mob boss character in the 1983 movie.
   
"He thought he was God. He thought he was above everyone," another said, while a third recalled how Giroud liked to brag that he alone could bring down both Switzerland's banking and wine industries if he wanted to.
   
Swiss authorities opened a tax fraud probe against him in 2011, and two years later demanded he pay 9.54 million francs in back taxes.
   
In February this year, national broadcaster RTS reported that he had illegally blended some 350,000 litres of wine between 2006 and 2009, passing it off as pure.
   
He also tried -- and failed -- to stop two RTS documentaries about his business from being aired last month.
   
The arrests last week centre on alleged attempts to hack the accounts of journalists at RTS and the Le Temps daily in an apparent bid to find the sources for their reporting on Giroud.
   
The private detective and the hacker say they carried out the spying on orders from their long-time business associate, the intelligence agent -- also a childhood friend of Giroud -- Le Matin Dimanche reported.
   
Both the private detective and the hacker reportedly attempted the operation thinking they were acting for the government.
   
The wine producer's lawyers insist he never gave his blessing to the hacking, while the agent has claimed through his lawyer that he had warned the group it was illegal.

Nina Larson/AFP (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Iran journo at Lausanne talks seeks asylum
Secretary of State John Kerry and other US officials meeting with Iran's Foreign MInister Javad Zarif and associates on Sunday. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Pool/AFP

Iran journo at Lausanne talks seeks asylum

In the margins of intense talks in Lausanne to reach a deal over Iran’s nuclear future over the weekend an Iranian journalist took advantage of the situation to file a request for asylum in Switzerland, media reports said. READ  

Fewer foreigners buy Swiss holiday homes
Photo: Mirko Grifoni

Fewer foreigners buy Swiss holiday homes

Fewer foreigners are buying apartments in Switzerland as secondary residences, according to new federal government figures. READ  

 Swiss pilot dies in Ecuador volcano crash
Photo: Twitter

Swiss pilot dies in Ecuador volcano crash

A Swiss aviator attempting to circumnavigate the world in 20 months in a lightweight two-seater aircraft died at the weekend after crashing into a volcano in central Ecuador, officials said. READ  

Two skiers killed in Swiss avalanches
Photo: AFP

Two skiers killed in Swiss avalanches

Two skiers, a German and a British national, have been killed in avalanches in Switzerland, police said on Saturday. READ  

Iran nuclear negotiations kick into high gear
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (L) and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photo: AFP

Iran nuclear negotiations kick into high gear

Foreign policy chiefs continue to gather in Lausanne to try to broker a deal by Tuesday on Iran’s nuclear program. The EU’s foreign policy official was to join the talks on Saturday, a day earlier than expected. READ  

Marathon Iran nuclear talks hit critical weekend
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (second right) with staff after a negotiation session in Lausanne on Friday. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Marathon Iran nuclear talks hit critical weekend

Marathon Iran nuclear talks headed on Friday towards a critical weekend as Britain said its foreign minister would join his US, Iranian and French counterparts in racing the clock to pin down a deal in Switzerland. READ  

Geneva-based UBP acquires Coutts business
Photo: AFP

Geneva-based UBP acquires Coutts business

Swiss family-owned bank Union Bancaire Privée (UBP) announced on Friday that it is acquiring the Royal Bank of Scotland's international private banking and wealth management business. READ  

Swiss probe 'animal cell' injection clinics
Woman receives anti-ageing treatment with cell stimulation at last year's Beauty Asia trade show in Singapore. Photo: Roslan Rahman/AFP

Swiss probe 'animal cell' injection clinics

Swiss health regulators say they have launched a criminal probe into dozens of clinics suspected of giving clients potentially dangerous animal cell injections as part of anti-ageing treatments. READ  

EPFL among 'fastest rising young universities'
Aerial view of EPFL's campus overlooking Lake Geneva. Photo: Alain Herzog

EPFL among 'fastest rising young universities'

Switzerland’s EPFL has been named to a list of the seven “fastest rising young universities in the world” by UK-based Times Higher Education. READ  

Geneva-airport cab fares 'priciest in Europe'
One alternative to expensive cab fares at Geneva's airport is free public transport. Photo: Geneva Airport

Geneva-airport cab fares 'priciest in Europe'

Taxi transfers from downtown Geneva to its airport are the most expensive in Europe, according to research released on Friday from a UK-based travel money specialist. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Features
Six steps for expats to get along better with the Swiss
Business & Money
Ethical Coffee Company aims to beat Nespresso in home market
National
Use of temporary staffing continues to rise in Switzerland
Sponsored Article
Need help with permits and registration in Switzerland?
National
Swiss foreign affairs minister touted as candidate for top UN job
National
One of Switzerland's most celebrated artists dies in Lucerne at 106
Business & Money
Swiss luxury brand Tag Heuer announces plans for smartwatch
National
Valais lights up 13 mountain peaks for 200th anniversary
Business & Money
Switzerland to avoid recession this year: Credit Suisse forecast
Business & Money
Europe's tallest hotel pitched for Swiss mountain village
National
Exlusive interview: surviving Swiss cousin remembers Anne Frank
National
New Credit Suisse chief executive 'offers hope for Africans'
Features
Top tips to help you find an apartment in Switzerland
Business & Money
American expat to make way for African as Credit Suisse CEO
National
Rising Swiss gender pay gap above European Union average
National
Political deal reached to enact Swiss holiday home restrictions
National
Optimism drives this year's Geneva International Motor show
National
Robust Swiss economy beats forecasts for 2014: government
Sport
Federer scores upset win against Djokovic for seventh Dubai title
National
Swiss train in collision near Zurich ignored stop signal: SBB
Technology
Switzerland best in world for per capita European patent filings
Education
New EPFL building to showcase art and science 'under one roof'
National
Same-sex marriage supported by most Swiss: opinion polls
National
New study finds Switzerland is world's best place to retire
National
Army official calls for Swiss women to undergo military training
National
New Swiss health campaign combats smoking as 'norm' for too many
Culture
Abba star Frida records song about first ascent of the Matterhorn
National
Swiss federal government unveils EU immigration quotas bill
Business & Money
HSBC Swiss private bank revelations 'tip of iceberg': whistleblower
Business & Money
FATCA: 'The age of financial privacy is over'
National
Phil Collins' paralyzed ex-wife files lawsuit after Swiss complications
Culture
Gauguin on display in Basel touted as 'most costly painting ever'
Business & Money
Swiss Leaks: HSBC Swiss private bank 'catered to terrorists and crooks'
International
What's keeping British expats in Europe from voting in UK elections?
Business & Money
Trade balance bulges as Switzerland smashes record for exports in 2015
National
Swiss town's ploy against workers living in Italy 'not racist'
National
Architects propose skyscrapers for new Geneva 'urban centre'
Culture
Renowned Israeli conductor dies during symphony in Lucerne
International
Population of Swiss citizens abroad continues to expand
National
Vaud property salesman jailed over costly gambling addiction
National
Right-wing group seeks citizens' vote for national face veil ban
Health
Swiss doctors 'worst' for leaving foreign objects in patients
Features
Anglophone expats in Switzerland mine creativity to earn crust
National
Number of 'immigrants' swells to third of Swiss population: report
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

4,669
jobs available