Top Valais cop stays despite Turkish rock theft

The chief of the Valais cantonal police force will remain on the job despite a conviction for attempting to steal a cultural artefact from Turkey.

Top Valais cop stays despite Turkish rock theft
Christian Varone: returning as chief constable. Photo: RTS

The cantonal government issued a statement on Wednesday stating that Christian Varone will resume his duties on April 1st, following a leave of absence begun in November.

A Turkish court last week handed Varone, 49, a suspended jail sentence of one year and 15 days, in addition to a fine equivalent to 260 francs ($272), for removing a marble fragment dating from Roman times.

The rock was found in Varone’s luggage as he was leaving Turkey following a holiday in July 2012.

He was arrested and spent several days in detention before being released and allowed to return to Switzerland.

In a brief statement, Valais’s five-person cabinet acknowledged Varone’s “determination” to continue as police chief and accepted his written arguments in defence of his position.

The ATS news agency reported that Varone’s suspended sentence does not affect his criminal record in Switzerland and would only be activated in Turkey if he reoffends during the next five years.

The lawyer and former colonel in the Swiss army took a leave of absence on November 23rd to run for election to the government as a member of of the Liberal-Radical party.

He withdrew from the race after the first round of voting earlier this month following a disappointing showing.

Varone earlier described the marble theft as an innocent mistake.

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CERN ski club members injured in avalanche

Two members of the ski club of the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) were in critical condition on Sunday after an avalanche swept them and two colleagues down a mountainside in the canton of Valais, media reports said.

CERN ski club members injured in avalanche
Photo: Valais cantonal police

The incident occurred at around 11am when a group of five mountaineering skiers were heading down the north slope of the Pointes de Tsavolire, a 3,026-metre mountain, Valais cantonal police said in a statement.

The avalanche carried away four of the skiers, the statement said.

The fifth skier was able to dig out two of them, who were slightly injured, police said.

Emergency rescue workers from the Maison du Sauvetage and Air Glaciers found the other two, buried beneath more than 2.5 metres of snow.

They were transported by helicopter separately to hospitals in Lausanne and Sion for treatment of critical injuries, police said.

Marcel Délèze, guardian of the Becs de Bosson mountain hut, told local newspaper Le Nouvelliste, that the skiers were members of the CERN ski club.

He said they had earlier left the village of Eison in the Val d’Hérens.

Police said they were heading toward another valley, the Vallon de Réchy, south of Sierre, when the avalanche struck.

“In seeing that a sheet (of snow) had let go on this face, I called for help and then went to the site with people present in the hut,” Délèze said.

“We localized the skiers before the emergency services arrived but some were under three metres of snow,” he told Le Nouvelliste.

“To free them took a lot of time.”

The ages of the victims, reportedly Swiss citizens, were not disclosed.

Elsewhere, in the canton of Schwyz, a 31-year-old man died after falling 100 metres while hiking in steep terrain on the Rigi-Hochflue, a steep mountain overlooking Lake Lucerne near Lauerz, police said.

Other hikers discovered the man, a resident of the canton of Zug, in a seriously injured condition on Sunday around noon.

He was transported by helicopter to hospital where he died in the afternoon, Schwyz cantonal police said.