Swiss banker charged in Alstom bribe probe

6th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

The Swiss federal prosecutor's office said Thursday that it has formally accused a Swiss private banker of laundering and managing corruption money for French engineering giant Alstom.

Although the company was only identified in a statement as a "French industrial group", federal prosecutor Lienhard Ochsner later said that the charges related to transfers of 9.0 million Swiss francs from Alstom into slush funds.

Alstom confirmed in March that it had been targeted by a three-year Swiss investigation into alleged bribery.

The company has denied wrongdoing.

Alstom is suspected of being behind bribes to secure public tenders in Asia and South America between 1995 and 2003, Swiss authorities have said.

Brazilian, British and French authorities have also been involved in the probes.

The private banker was also charged with money laundering related to drug trafficking, the prosecutor's office said in a statement on Thursday.

Although it only identified him as "private banker H," he was named as Oskar Holenweger, former head of Tempus Privatbank in Zurich, in a Swiss parliamentary inquiry more than two years ago.

Ochsner said: "Mr Holenweger directed through offshore companies... consultancy contracts with Alsthom."

"He again acted on the instructions of the company to carry out transfers to third parties, including to holders of public office abroad," he told Swiss radio DRS.

Charges of money laundering, fraudulent management and corruption of foreign officials were filed with Switzerland's Federal Criminal Court on Wednesday, the statement said.

Holenweger's lawyer said his client "contests all the accusations levelled against him," Swiss television SFTV reported.

Prosecutors underlined that the bulk of the case related to slush funds Holenweger allegedly set up for the industrial group, which were uncovered after the banker was detained in 2003 on suspicion of helping Colombian drug cartels.

"The investigations revealed that the accused had transferred funds from the industrial group in order to set up slush funds; he had managed important sums on the accounts of offshore companies for this group," the statement said.

Company representatives gave instructions on where the funds should go, it added.

"They were mainly used to bribe people in order to acquire markets and create projects abroad."

Alstom specialises in power plants and railways. It has offices in 70 countries with more than 80,000 employees.

© 2010 AFP

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