FRIBOURG: THE CATHOLIC TAX HAVEN

By Matthew Temme

fribourg

On October 10th, 2013 the Swiss Federal Court in Bellinzona (TI) finally handed down its verdict in one of the most important money-laundering cases ever prosecuted in Switzerland. Five Czechs and one Belgian were convicted of fraudulently taking over the Czech coal-mining company Mostecké uhelné společnosti (MUS) in 1999. A sixth Czech defendant died in March. The men had been accused of forgery, fraud, money laundering and other charges. The Czechs received sentences ranging from 36 to 56 months. The Belgian, who was a former director of the International Monetary Fund (the IMF) and the World Bank, is elderly and in poor health so he only received a fine. First, the defendants had managed to milk the huge Bohemian coal-mining company of money from the company’s environmental clean-up fund. Then they used this money to buy the company at about 1/18th of its real value. This affair was typical of other privatization scams that followed the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. As usual, a multitude of secret bank accounts and offshore shell companies were used to drain money (in this case about 1.2 billion Swiss francs) from the captive company.

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