Switzerland to assist in Italian arms probe

29th October 2008, Comments 0 comments

Swiss court lifts banking secrecy to provide bank account details of alleged black market arms dealers to Italian prosecutors.

29 October 2008

BELLINZONA - Switzerland can provide legal assistance to Italian prosecutors investigating an alleged attempt by black market dealers to sell arms to Libya and Iraq, according to a court ruling released Tuesday.

An Italian citizen and a company alleged to have been involved in setting up the deal had asked the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona to block the release of their bank account details to Italian authorities.

The court dismissed their request.

Prosecutors in the central Italian city of Perugia have been investigating five Italians for illegally dealing in arms and allegedly giving hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks to Libyan officials.

Italian authorities believe the group was working to sell some 100,000 AK-47 rifles to Iraq and a half-million assault rifles to Libya before police broke up the deals.

Prosecutors in Italy suspect the group brokered the deals through companies in Malta and Cyprus, and allege that bank accounts in Geneva and Lugano were used to funnel bribes to Libyan government officials. They asked Switzerland for details of the transactions.

The Bellinzona court said the request was proportionate to the suspected crime. Swiss banking secrecy laws forbid the release of customers' details unless there is a strong suspicion that a crime has been committed.

The plaintiffs - not identified in the ruling because of privacy rules - can appeal the decision to Switzerland's highest court, the Federal Tribunal in Lausanne.

[AP / Expatica]

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