Switzerland blocks millions in Uzbek probe

Switzerland has blocked bank accounts containing several hundreds of millions of dollars in a money-laundering probe involving Uzbek nationals, the attorney general's office said Wednesday.

"The attorney general has frozen several hundreds of millions of francs (dollars) in different Swiss bank accounts as part of this investigation," said Jeannette Balmer, a spokeswoman for the office known as the MPC.

Individuals close to Uzbek President Islam Karimov are at the centre of the probe, Radio Television Suisse (RTS) reported.

Four Uzbek nationals are accused of involvement in money-laundering, according to the MPC, which said two were arrested in Geneva on July 30th and remain in custody.

Swiss daily Blick reported that both work for Coca-Cola Uzbekistan, which is owned by the president's daughter Gulnara Karimova, also the country's ambassador to Spain and the United Nations in Geneva.

According to RTS, one of the two people being sought is a former employee of Uzdunrobita, the Uzbek subsidiary of Russian telecoms operator MTS.

Swedish telecoms firm TeliaSonera is also cited in the probe which involves contracts dating back to 2007 worth hundreds of millions of dollars, providing access to Uzbekistan's telecoms market, RTS reported.

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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