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Controversial Swiss financier Rey to hear verdict Thursday

A court in the capital Berne will rule later Thursday whether Werner K. Rey, probably Switzerland’s most controversial financier and businessman in recent years, will be found guilty on fraud and forgery charges.

This content was published on July 8, 1999 - 10:44

A court in the capital Berne will rule later Thursday whether Werner K. Rey, probably Switzerland’s most controversial financier and businessman in recent years, will be found guilty on fraud and forgery charges.

Those charges relate to the fall of Rey’s Omni Holding business empire, which collapsed in 1991 amid debts estimated at about SFr4 billion ($2.6 billion). However, the Berne trial only relates to debts totalling SFr277 million ($184.6).

The prosecution has demanded ten years in prison for Rey, while the defense wants the court to declare the man innocent on all charges.

The prosecution painted Rey as an "unscrupulous" and "highly professional criminal" who deliberately massaged business figures and misled banks about his business performance in order to win loans which were crucial at the time for his going public with his Inspectorate flagship company.

The defense, on the other hand, accused the prosecution of turning Rey into a demon and making him a scapegoat for the kind of highly speculative and aggressive business practices which were common in the 1980s.

Expert testimony in the trial was also contradictory as the prosecution’s experts said Rey had clearly violated regulations on how business figures and performance records should be drawn up and presented.

Defense experts admitted that there were some flaws in Rey’s business records but that they did not amount to a criminal act in any way.

Rey himself regularly said in court that he was unable to recall certain business decisions, moves and practices and he often referred the court to his former accountants, business executives and company board members. Some of those, however, accused Rey of systematic tax fraud and of deliberately cooking the books.

Rey’s legal troubles began in late 1991, when a court in Zurich issued an arrest warrant and accused him of systematic fraud and forgery. Justice authorities in Canton Berne followed suit the following year and issued an international arrest warrant.

Rey, who meanwhile had moved to the Bahamas where he had a house, fought extradition for years. But in mid-1998, the Bahamas extradited Rey and he was flown to Switzerland where he was put in investigative detention.


From staff and wire reports.

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