Private investors are stepping in to save what could be a landmark project in Switzerland.

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Private investors are stepping in to save what could be a landmark project in Switzerland.

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Plans revived for world’s deepest train station

Private investors are stepping in to save what could be a landmark project in Switzerland.

Plans revived for world's deepest train station
Herrenknecht AG - Breakthrough in Gotthard Base Tunnel

Compared by enthusiasts to the likes of the Eifel Tower in Paris or the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, the Porta Alpina project envisages the building of a new train station at record depths of 800 metres.

The station would be located inside the world’s longest railway tunnel, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which is expected to open to the public in 2016. 

One of the world’s longest lifts would then link the station to the village of Sedrun. Locals are said to be enthusiastic about the project, which could see tens of thousands of tourists visiting the region each year.

The proposed site sits a little way along the mountain range from Andermatt, where Egyptian billionaire, Samih Sawiris, plans to build a new super-resort, and there is talk that one day the two attractions could somehow be linked.

Sawiris said he would be sorry if this “unique construction” was not realised.

Despite 75 percent of local Graubünden voters approving cantonal contributions to the project in 2005, local government determined that it was unable to spend the 20 million francs ($21.98 million) needed to build what would be one of Europe’s most spectacular train stations.

Nevertheless, Basel public relations entrepreneur Manfred Messmer, speaking on behalf of a group of investors, confirmed in a report by St. Galler Tagsblatt that he was very optimistic about the project.

He will meet decision-makers at national rail operator SBB as well as the Federal Office for Transport in June to try to obtain their consent to the construction work.

Messmer, together with his business partner, former Expo 02 chief Martin Heller, have received architectural and engineering proposals from companies all over Europe concerning how to develop the site. The list has been whittled down to a choice of 12, Tages Anzeiger reported.

Some of the plans include walks under the Gotthard massif and fantastic voyages through the rock, flanked by sound and light installations.

The entire project has been estimated at costing between 50 and 100 million francs ($54.89 million and $109.8 million) depending on which variation is chosen.

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SMUGGLING

Italy foils Swiss-based gold smugglers

Italian police on Thursday seized €163 million ($207 million) worth of assets from a criminal association headquartered in Switzerland, as well as a luxury villa used as a safehouse for stashing gold.

Italy foils Swiss-based gold smugglers

Officers carried out 259 raids in houses and cash-for-gold shops across Italy as part of an investigation into 118 people suspected of smuggling gold bars to Switzerland and cash back into Italy.

The gang is accused of money-laundering, recycling cash and stolen jewels through cash-for-gold shops and churning out ingots in foundries.

"The money came illegally into Italy from Switzerland, and was used to buy fraudulently obtained gold and silver, then sent back to Switzerland in the form of ingots," police officer Alessandro Langella told AFP.

Police seized a villa in Monte San Savino, a town near the city of Arezzo, the gold capital of Italy.

Nicknamed "Fort Knox", the villa was used by the criminal gang as a place to stash the cash and gold.

Police said they also blocked 500 bank accounts, seizing €163 million worth of profit earned by the gang in 2012 through the exchange of 4,500 kilograms of gold and 11,000 kilograms of silver.

In August, Italian police announced a 78-percent jump in the amount of gold, silver and cash they had prevented from leaving the country illegally in the first seven months of 2012.

The financial police said it had seized €41 million worth compared with €23.2 million in the same period last year.

Criminal organizations in Italy have been making billions from a boom in the poorly-regulated cash-for-gold sector, which is rife with tax evasion and serves as a quick and easy method of cleaning dirty money.

Out of an estimated 28,000 cash-for-gold stores in Italy, only a few hundred have registered with the Bank of Italy and professional associations say that some 80 percent of the gold sold there ultimately ends up in Switzerland.

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