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Swiss close probe of Sikh's phone card 'scam'

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19:18 CEST+02:00
The Swiss chief prosecutor's office has closed a probe of an Indian-born telecoms baron who was accused of fraud in a scheme that sold pre-paid phone cards but allegedly cheated users out of call time.

But in a clear sign that its suspicions remained strong, the office on Thursday said that Ranjit Masuta would nonetheless have to pay part of his legal costs.
   
It did not disclose the sums involved.

   
Masuta's operations — which the prosecutor's office said constituted 
"illicit behaviour" — were placed under investigation in 2005 at the request of Germany.
   
"Selling pre-paid phone cards is a massive, anonymous business," the 
office said.
   
"The investigation showed that, via his corporation, Ranjit Masuta produced 
at least 141 types of cards, with most of them sold in large numbers," it added.
   
The cards were handled by servers in the western German business hub of 
Frankfurt.
   
"For the bulk of these cards, it is assumed that the programming of the 
servers cut the call-credit in a continued and unjustified manner," the office said.
   
It underlined, however, that it had not been possible to identify the 
individuals who bought the cards and who were affected by the alleged fraud, and therefore to estimate the total losses inflicted on the victims.
   
"There is therefore insufficient evidence to file charges," it said.

   
Masuta, who set up his company in Switzerland in 1995, is a high-profile 
member of the Alpine country's small Sikh community.
   
He is well-known for having financed the construction of Switzerland's 
first Sikh temple.

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