"Ticinogate" central figure sentenced in Italy

Cuomo (right) was extradited two days after his trial in June, 2001 Keystone

A court in Italy has sentenced an alleged smuggler, Gerardo Cuomo, to seven years and four months in prison for association with the Mafia.

This content was published on November 20, 2004 - 17:27

During the summer of 2001, Cuomo was the main figure in a corruption scandal in the Swiss canton of Ticino that became known as “Ticinogate”, which involved international cigarette smuggling.

According to the prosecution in the southern city of Bari, Cuomo was the mastermind behind smuggling about a thousand tons of cigarettes a month from the Netherlands via Montenegro and Switzerland to Apulia in Italy.

The proceeds are said to have been laundered in Switzerland.

In Switzerland, Cuomo was convicted of corruption after a high-profile trial in Lugano in 2001. He was given a ten-month suspended prison sentence and banned from entering Switzerland for five years.

The Swiss Federal Court also agreed that Cuomo could be extradited to Italy where he was wanted on cigarette smuggling charges.

Criminal organisation

But Switzerland did not extradite Cuomo on account of the Italian smuggling charges but because he was a member of a criminal organisation.

Swiss authorities consider smuggling a fiscal crime, which is not punishable under Swiss law.

At the same trial, a former Swiss judge and one-time president of canton Ticino’s criminal court, Franco Verda, was given an 18-month suspended sentence after being found guilty of corruption and accepting kickbacks from Cuomo.

Laundered money

The prosecutor in Bari, Giuseppe Scelsi, had demanded a prison term of ten years. He argued that Cuomo had laundered money from cigarette smuggling in canton Ticino and in several tax havens where he had set up various companies.

According to the prosecution, Cuomo was one of the dealers under orders from Franceso della Torre, a Ticinese, to import cigarettes from Montenegro.

Scelsi has asked for the arrest of della Torre on several occasions, suspecting him of being the brain behind an international ring specialising in cigarette trafficking.

Della Torre has rejected Italian accusations, claiming he was acting legally because he had an export licence granted by the Montenegro authorities.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Gerardo Cuomo was sentenced on Saturday to a prison term of seven years and four months.
According to the prosecution, the clan around the alleged smuggler was trafficking around a thousand tons of cigarettes a month between the Netherlands, Montenegro, Switzerland and Italy.
The proceeds are said to have been laundered in Switzerland.

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In brief

In Switzerland, Gerardo Cuomo was arrested in 2000 and sentenced in 2001 for corrupting the Ticinese judge Franco Verda.

He received a suspended ten-month sentenced and was banned from entering Switzerland for five years.

Cuomo was handed over to Italian authorities for belonging to a band of criminals.

Switzerland does not recognise smuggling as a criminal offence.

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