It has emerged that six prominent Swiss figures asked former US president, Bill Clinton, to pardon the billionaire fugitive, Marc Rich. He fled to Switzerland in 1983 to avoid prosecution in the United States.
The six Swiss wrote letters to Clinton in support of Rich, describing him "an honest, upright citizen". Among them are the mayor of Zurich, Josef Estermann and a member of the Executive Board of UBS, Pierre de Weck.
Rich has been living in Switzerland since he fled the US to escape 50 indictments for fraud, racketeering, trading with the enemy, and income tax evasion to the tune of $50 million (SFr81.5 million). He avoided prosecution because Switzerland refused to extradite him to the US.
Clinton issued the pardon in the final hours of his presidency in January. The campaign to obtain a pardon is believed to have been orchestrated by Rich's ex-wife, Denise, who lives in New York and has given large donations to the Clintons' political campaigns.
Rich has also received support from leading Israeli politicians. It's believed Ehud Barak has twice called Clinton on Rich's behalf.
News that Rich also has prominent Swiss supporters has surprised many. A spokesman for the Social Democrats - the party of Zurich Mayor Estermann - said he was surprised at the efforts made on Rich's behalf.
Letters of support have also been written by Ernst Beyeler, the founder of the art museum near Basel, and Verena Meyer, a former official of the University of Zurich.
The letters to Clinton argue that Rich's "voluntary contributions to society as a whole over the almost 20 years that he has been out of the country" surpass any wrongdoing of which he has been accused.
Rich, 66, and his partner, Pincus (Pinky) Green, who was also pardoned by Clinton, were once among the world's leading commodity traders. Their companies pleaded guilty in 1984 to evading millions of dollars in taxes by hiding profits on crude oil trading.
The US department of justice also accused Rich of conspiring in April 1980 with Iran to purchase more than six million barrels of oil, in violation of a US trade embargo.