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Biggest ever money laundering case continues

A former executive accused of involvement in the biggest money laundering case in Swiss banking history has been acquitted for a second time.

The Zurich High Court on Monday found Josef Oberholzer, a former deputy director of the Swiss Bank Corporation (now UBS), not guilty of money laundering drug profits worth $150 million (SFr240 million).

The 68-year-old Swiss banker was accused of laundering "dirty money" for a Colombian woman, Sheila Arana de Nasser and her husband.

Oberholzer was alleged to have opened two bank accounts for the couple in 1978, which were used to hold proceeds from drug deals.

Prosecutors argued that Oberholzer illegally transferred SFr7 million into other bank accounts in 1993, three years after money laundering became a criminal offence in Switzerland.

The court heard claims that he was paid around $1.084 million by his Colombian partners between 1981 and 1992.

The case was first taken to trial in 1997, resulting in a SFr1.6 million fine for Oberholzer. However, he avoided the more serious crime of money laundering on a technical detail.

Prosecutors then appealed to the Zurich High Court, which again cleared Oberholzer of money laundering charges in 1999, because the alleged crime happened too long ago.

However in 2000, the Federal Court in Lausanne overturned that verdict, and ordered a fresh trial.

On Monday, the Zurich court upheld his earlier fine, and the decision of lower courts not to find him guilty of money laundering.

swissinfo with agencies

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