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Swiss acquit 7 in Mafia cigarette-smuggling trial

Swiss acquit 7 in Mafia cigarette-smuggling trial

A Swiss court on Wednesday acquitted most of the defendants in the country's largest organized crime trial, clearing them of charges that they operated a cigarette smuggling ring and laundered more than $1 billion over 10 years.
The Federal Criminal Court convicted two of the nine defendants of supporting a criminal organization. Judge Walter Wuethrich said that that there was not enough evidence under Swiss law to convict the other men and that they must be let go.
"The court has reached the limit of the law," Wuethrich said.
Prosecutors maintained that the defendants used Switzerland as a hub for laundering money from Italy's powerful Camorra and Sacra Corona Unita organizations, bringing large sums of cash from Italy into Switzerland and placing it into bank accounts, from which it entered into the legitimate global financial system.
They said the money was then used to buy untaxed cigarettes in the United States and Latin America. They were smuggled into Italy, where they could undercut legitimately taxed cigarettes with low prices.
The defendants allegedly supplied their Italian clients with more than 2 billion packets of cigarettes over the years, prosecutors said.
Paolo Savino, a 70-year old Italian living in Switzerland, was sentenced to a nine-month prison term plus a two-year suspended sentence.
Pietro Virgilio, 64, another Italian resident in Switzerland, was given a two-year suspended sentence. He only has to go to prison if he commits a crime during the next three years.
They were also charged with supporting or participating in a criminal organization.
Wuethrich said he lacked evidence that Savino and Virgilio helped set up the Mafia organization. But they used it for their own purpose and out of greed, he said.
Among those acquitted were Fredi Bossert, the Swiss owner of a money exchange business, and Swiss financier Franco Della Torre, as well as two other Swiss, a Spaniard, a Frenchman and another Italian.
Federal Prosecutor Lienhard Ochsner said he was disappointed at the verdict because he believed he had proved his case and there was little legal basis for the acquittal. He said he hoped Switzerland's reputation would not suffer much damage from the ruling.


Updated : 2021-10-23 07:40 GMT+08:00