Swiss banker on trial over Alstom slush fund

A Swiss banker went on trial in Switzerland's highest criminal court on Monday on charges of running slush funds allegedly used by French engineering giant Alstom to bribe foreign

The Swiss federal prosecutor is pressing charges of corruption and fraud related offences against former private banker Oskar Holenweger over Alstom’s suspected transfer of about nine million Swiss francs (€6.9 million) into secret funds.
The trial “began this morning. It should last all week,” said Mascia Gregori Al Barafi, secretary general of the Federal Criminal Court in the southern Swiss town of Bellinzona.
Swiss magistrates opened several investigations against the railway network and power grid maker in 2003, mainly over allegations of corruption and money laundering related to contracts in South America and Asia.
They estimated that between 1995 to 2003 millions in bribes were paid by Alstom through subsidiaries to secure public tenders.
The investigations were carried out in close cooperation with French and Brazilian authorities, officials said. Britain’s Serious Fraud Office also searched company premises during a probe last year.
Alstom has repeatedly rejected the accusations.
Holenweger was originally suspected of being involved in laundering the proceeds of drug trafficking.
However, after he was arrested in December 2003 in Germany, federal prosecutors found documents indicating that “‘slush funds’ were established and managed for a French industrial group,” identified as Alstom.
Investigators uncovered evidence that Holenweger “transferred funds belonging to the industrial group in order to form slush funds” that were used “essentially to subjugate people in order to gain markets and build projects abroad,” according to the prosecutor’s office.
Those who received payments included “public officials responsible for awarding contracts” after the banker used offshore accounts that were designed to mask payments and false billing, Swiss prosecutors said when they unveiled charges against him last year.
Holenweger also faces charges related to other cases during the one week trial. The judge is expected to hand down a verdict subsequently, the Swiss news agency ATS reported.


Trial over 2006 German World Cup corruption opens in Switzerland

Three former German football officials and ex-FIFA Secretary General Urs Linsi went on trial on Monday in Switzerland over suspicions that Germany bought votes to obtain the 2006 World Cup.

Trial over 2006 German World Cup corruption opens in Switzerland

The three defendants have indicated that they will not be present at the hearing in Bellinzona for a variety of reasons, including fear of travelling because of coronavirus contagion.

Swiss Linsi, 70, former German Football Association (DFB) presidents Wolfgang Niersbach, 69, and Theo Zwanziger, 74, and 78-year-old former DFB General Secretary Horst R. Schmidt are being prosecuted for “fraud”.

They are accused by the Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office (BA) of concealing from the DFB the true destination of a transfer of 6.7 million euros ($7.6 million today), paid in 2005 by the organising committee to former Adidas boss, the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, via FIFA.

The case of former World Cup organising committee chairman Franz Beckenbauer is being heard separately because of the former Germany captain's poor health.

The investigation was prompted by a report in German publication Der Spiegel in 2015 that Germany had used a secret fund of 10 million Swiss francs (6.7 million euros at the time) to buy votes and obtain the rights to host the competition at the expense of South Africa.

Beckenbauer is suspected of having asked Louis-Dreyfus, to contribute to this fund shortly before the vote on the host in the summer of 2000.

Louis-Dreyfus was allegedly reimbursed by the German Football Association on the pretext of expenses related to a FIFA gala evening, which ever took place.

Zwanziger, Niersbach and Schmidt have also been charged with tax fraud in Germany and the case is expected to come to trial in the coming months. cpb/pb/td