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HSBC staff leave amid criminal probe: report

Several employees at the HSBC bank in Geneva have left "by mutual agreement" after the unravelling of a $130-million drug and money laundering ring in France and Switzerland, Swiss daily Tribune de Genève reported on Friday.

While it remained unclear how many workers had left, one of the employees to go was the eldest brother of no fewer than three suspects accused of involvement in the ring, including the main suspect for Switzerland operations Meyer Elmaley, the daily said.

"He is not suspected of any involvement (in the money laundering probe)", said the man's lawyer, Marc Bonnant, adding that it was his client's idea to leave HSBC's Supervisory Executive Committee to protect against any question of wrongdoing.

"He wasn't even questioned by police," the lawyer said, adding that his client, whose name was not given, had gone to live in Israel but was still working with HSBC before French and Swiss police cracked down on the ring on October 10th.

HSBC, which declined to comment on the development to AFP, has also come to a similar arrangement with other employees in a bid to protect its reputation, the lawyer added.

Two of the former HSBC executive's brothers — one of them a former HSBC colleague — are being held in Swiss custody over their involvement in a drug and money laundering racket Paris says legitimised at least 100 million euros.

A third brother is being held in France in connection with the same case.

According to reports, the two brothers held in Switzerland are suspected of laundering cash through a Geneva-based finance company, with the possible unwitting participation of French tax evaders.

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DRUGS

Switzerland green lights recreational marijuana trial

Switzerland’s National Council has approved a plan to start cannabis trials for recreational use. If it is to be legalised however, the government says it must be organic and grown locally.

Switzerland green lights recreational marijuana trial
Photo: MLADEN ANTONOV / AFP

The study, which was approved by the National Council on Tuesday, hopes to find out more about the effects that a controlled legalisation of the drug would have in Switzerland. 

The decision to embark upon the trial was to be made in March but was delated due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The experiments are to be carried out in Switzerland’s larger cities. Basel, Bern, Biel, Geneva and Zurich have all expressed interest in conducting the trials. 

The study wants to understand how the market for cannabis works – and how to combat the black market. The social effects of legalisation are also set to be studied. 

“The models must be tested before starting the debate on whether or not to liberalise cannabis,” said Pierre-Yves Maillard (Social Democrats), a spokesperson for the responsible committee. 

Only people who currently use cannabis – and can prove it – will be allowed to participate. Proof will be determined through a hair sample. 

‘Organic and Swiss’

Although legalisation is not a foregone conclusion, the National Council added that if cannabis was to be legalised it must be locally grown in Switzerland – and must be organic. 

Minister of Health Alain Berset said that a legalisation should benefit Swiss farmers even though “very few producers have experience in this area”, Berset said. 

200,000 cannabis users in Switzerland

An estimated 200,000 people smoke cannabis products in Switzerland. Those in favour of the new trial argue that this shows the war on drugs has failed – and that legalisation will 

Since 2011, the sale of cannabis products containing up to one percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the ingredient that makes users high – has been legal in Switzerland.

Regular strength cannabis and other associated products such as hashish are also illegal, although small amounts (less than ten grams) are decriminalised and will only attract a 100 franc on-the-spot fine. 

A poll by the World Health Organisation showed that more teenagers smoked in Switzerland than in any other European country, with 27 percent of 15 year olds having smoked at least once. 

The use of cannabis for medical purposes is also heavily restricted in Switzerland, with only one product – CBD oil – legally available for sale. 

 

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