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Geneva: police raid council offices in 'bling expenses' scandal

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Geneva: police raid council offices in 'bling expenses' scandal
Guillaume Barazzone rang up a mobile phone bill of 17,000 Swiss francs in 2017. Photo: Ville de Genève
10:21 CET+01:00
In the latest scandal to hit the world of Geneva politics, prosecutors have opened formal investigations into members of the city council and other high-ranking officials after they ran up huge expenses.

Police searched the offices of city counsellors on Wednesday as part of the investigation into what prosecutors described as “certain unjustified expenses”.

The investigation was launched in the wake of the publication of Court of Auditors report highlighting lavish expenses on the part of five city council members and various other city officials in 2017.

Read also: How Switzerland's political golden child fell from grace

The report reveals that the then Geneva mayor Guillaume Barazzone (mayor duties are rotated in the city) was the biggest spender. He charged 42,224 Swiss francs (€36,700) to the city in 2017, including mobile phone costs of 17,315 francs, or five times that of his colleagues.

There was “no reason for this other than personal convenience”, the authors of the report noted.

Other possibly unjustified expenses listed in the report include “bottles of prestige champagne” and over 3,000 francs in taxi charges on the part of Barazzone and Greens councillor Esther Alder.

The Court of Auditors report also questioned late-night good expenses and bills originating from beach bars and touristic locations overseas.

After the release of the report on November 1st, members of the city council appeared before the media. Barazzone cited “unintended errors” and said that after examining his expenses since entering the council in 2012, he had decided to repay 51,896 francs.

A spokesperson for the city council said the city executive did not wish to comment at this time but highlighted that the council intended to publish this Thursday details of all expenses of council members for the last ten years.

The expenses scandal comes just weeks after the president of the canton of Geneva, Pierre Maudet, was forced to step aside from office after Geneva state prosecutors announced he was being investigated for “accepting benefits” in relation to a 2015 trip to Abu Dhabi.

According to prosecutors, Maudet and his family had travelled to the emirate at the invitation of the crown prince with travel costs in the tens of thousands of francs being covered. 

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