Swiss court OKs transfer of banking documents to Iran in airplane corruption case

1st May 2008, Comments 0 comments

Switzerland may hand over banking documents to Iran in a corruption probe into a failed attempt by Iran to buy an Airbus six years ago, a Swiss court ruled Wednesday.

BELLINZONA, Switzerland - Switzerland may hand over banking documents to Iran in a corruption probe in a failed attempt by Iran to buy an Airbus six years ago, a Swiss court ruled Wednesday.

The Federal Criminal Court rejected an appeal by an unidentified company against the transfer of the data to Iran, according to the ruling. The verdict, which also upheld the blocking of several Swiss bank accounts in the case, can be further appealed to the Swiss supreme court.

Iran sought judicial assistance from the Swiss in the 2002 deal to acquire an Airbus A340 for US$120 million. The seller of the airliner was a sultan, the ruling said without identifying him or giving his nationality.

Iran has claimed that the intermediary, an unnamed Portuguese of Syrian origin, never transferred the money to the seller, but embezzled it instead, according to the ruling. The head of the Iranian acquisition authority at the time is alleged to have received bribes, the court said.

The Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office approved Iran's judicial aid request in October. But the company holding the Swiss bank accounts appealed.

The court rejected the company's claim that judicial aid should not be granted to Iran on grounds that the Iranian government fails to guarantee basic rights. The lack of a fair trial can only be a valid argument against handing out evidence if the suspect himself is based in that country, the court said.

It said that, unlike an individual, a company was unable to cite the human rights situation in a country as an obstacle to judicial aid.

It said Swiss authorities could, however, require guarantees of acceptable legal proceedings in Iran before transferring the documents.

Handing over the documents would not breach UN sanctions against Iran, the court said.

[Copyright ap 2008]

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