Swiss investigate Russian billionaire Vekselberg

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Swiss authorities on Monday opened criminal proceedings against Viktor Vekselberg.

GENEVA - Swiss authorities on Monday opened criminal proceedings against Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg and two other businessmen suspected of breaking share trading rules.

The case stems from a hostile bid for Swiss engineering firm Sulzer in 2007.

The Finance Ministry said in a statement there were "sufficient indications to suspect that Ronny Pecik, Georg Stumpf and Viktor Vekselberg had acted in concert when building a stake in Sulzer AG from November 2006 to April 2007 and in doing so had violated their disclosure obligations."

In April 2007, an Austrian partner of Vekselberg's Renova conglomerate run by Pecik and Stumpf revealed that it built up a 31.4 percent stake in Sulzer.

Monday's legal move followed a two-year probe by Swiss financial regulators that first focused on the banks involved in the share trading.

Vekselberg later promised not to try to merge Sulzer and another Swiss technology firm, Oerlikon, which he controls.

But Renova was involved in an internal dispute at Sulzer ahead of the company's annual general meeting on Wednesday, while Oerlikon is financially struggling after falling to a CHF 422-million-loss in 2008.

Vekselberg said in an interview with the newspaper NZZ am Sonntag on Sunday that he could not discount a merger of the two Swiss companies "forever," although it was not an immediate priority.

Renova currently holds a 31.2 percent stake in Sulzer and 44.7 percent stake in Oerlikon.

AFP / Expatica

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