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Financial transparency Prosecutor opens criminal procedure over Geneva expenses scandal

The five members of the Geneva city government

The five members of the Geneva city government are under fire for their professional expenses claims, described as "excessive" in a highly critical audit report

(Keystone)

The Office of the Attorney General of Geneva has opened an investigation into an expenses scandal concerning the Geneva city council for alleged “dishonest management of public interests”. 

In a statement on Wednesdayexternal link, the office said that searches had also been carried out at the offices of various councillors embroiled in the controversy and related departments. 

Last week, a highly critical audit reportexternal link denounced members of the Geneva city council for claiming exorbitant amounts for expenses, such as champagne, taxis and telephone bills. The report criticised “excesses” in the professional expense claims of some councillors, uncooperative behaviour and opacity in the overall expenses system. 

Among the five council officials, environment councillor Guillaume Barazzone claimed CHF42,000 ($42,000) in expenses in 2017, including over CHF17,000 in mobile phone expenses. He admitted “involuntary mistakes”, such as mixing up private and public credit cards, and said he had reimbursed thousands of francs claimed since 2012. 

+ Read more about the Geneva expenses scandal 

The attorney general’s office said on Thursday that given that certain “unjustified expenses” outlined in the audit report were “likely to fall under criminal law, the Office of the Attorney General of Geneva has opened a criminal procedure”. 

The prosecutor’s case does not target any one individual; five councillors were mentioned in the audit report. 

Following the revelations, the municipal council gave a press conference where it stressed that most of the audit report’s recommendations had been taken on board. It added that new, stricter rules had been introduced for claiming expenses. 

However, Geneva Mayor Sami Kanaan said the council refused to submit to a “complete striptease” in which each councillor reveals their professional expenses and allowances every year to show transparency.

Keystone SDA/sb

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