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Russian billionaire Vekselberg acquitted

Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg and two other businessmen have been acquitted of wrongdoing in the takeover of Swiss industrial company Oerlikon.

The federal criminal court in Bellinzona announced on Thursday that Vekselberg and his associates had not violated stock exchange rules when they acquired shares in Oerlikon in 2006.

Last December the three men had been found guilty by the Swiss finance ministry of secretly - and illegally – conspiring to take over Oerlikon by breaching market disclosure rules. The ministry imposed fines of SFr40 million ($40 million) on each of the three men.

Vekselberg, Ronny Pecik and Georg Stumpf were said to have colluded in buying up large numbers of Oerlikon shares without making the purchase public.

Swiss stock market rules demand that large scale acquisitions of shares are made public and that the new owners identify themselves clearly. Such transparency is designed to keep other shareholders informed about possible changes that might affect their positions and to allow firms time to defend themselves against hostile takeover bids.

A statement from Vekselberg’s Renova holding company said after the verdict was released that the group considered its position confirmed.

“The indications assembled during roughly three years of investigations...reveal nothing more than the normal market behaviour of two independent shareholders in a publicly listed company,” it said.

swissinfo and agencies

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