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Swiss federal official guilty of accepting benefits on bear hunt

Can a bear hunting trip to Russia by a Swiss agent be seen as reasonable relationship building with Moscow? Court rules no. Keystone

Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court has found a former Russia specialist guilty of accepting benefits during a bear hunting trip to Russia. The former police agent was ordered to settle a compensation claim of CHF5,000 ($5,000) and received a 60-day suspended fine of CHF150.

This content was published on June 4, 2019 - 22:13
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The court justified its verdict by saying that the specialist had gone hunting without consulting his superiors. This had occurred despite the fact that he had been aware of possible corruption issues.

The defence lawyer argued for the acquittal of this former member of the Federal Judicial Police and tried to demonstrate that his client had accepted attentions that did not exceed the usual standard in working with the Russian justice system. 

The case began in February 2017 when the Federal Office of Police (Fedpol) opened a criminal investigation against the official. The charges of usurpation, abuse of office and corruption had been dropped due to lack of evidence. Only the repeated acceptance of benefits remained. 

The prosecution highlighted several examples of the 59-year-old receiving undue benefits as a result of his relationships in Moscow: two hunting weekends, two nights in a hotel and the bear hunting week on the Russian Kamchatka peninsula.

The defence stated that its client had no decision-making powers at all. As such, these gestures could not have influenced his administration. The hunting trips had taken place after consultation, or in the knowledge of federal prosecutor Patrick Lamon, according to the defence.

The former agent worked with the Federal Judicial Police. However, in April 2013, he was assigned to the Office of the Attorney General to assist all prosecutors dealing with cases involving Russia. Federal prosecutors Michael Lauber and Patrick Lamon testified as witnesses in the case.

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