Two men accused of taking part in an alleged bribery scandal involving Russian energy giant Gazprom have been released by the Swiss court hearing their case.
The Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona found that it had no jurisdiction to try the former Gazprom manager and an ex-ABB manager because the men were “neither functionally nor formally” the equivalent of Russian state officials.
In this respect, the court followed the defence, which had argued that Gazprom was not a state company but a private one with public duties.
The ruling has severely dented the prosecution case as the duo were considered the key alleged perpetrators.
The prosecution had asked for sentences ranging from eight months to two years. Instead, the men were released and awarded compensation totalling around CHF160,000 ($166,000) despite the court accepting that bribery had taken place. The prosecution was ordered to bear the court’s costs.
The defendants had been accused of funnelling bribes from the construction of a gas pipeline from the Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery (SIT) company to Gazprom executives. The pipeline was being built between the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia and Germany.
Three of the four defendants (the two others were accused of accepting the bribes) did not appear in court. The case had been delayed several months due to a dispute over which language would be used during the hearing.
The Swiss Attorney General’s office said it would examine the court’s written verdict in due course.
swissinfo.ch and agencies