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Detained Ticino judge forbidden to see lawyer

The former Ticinese criminal court judge, Franco Verda, will be cross-examined on Wednesday Keystone

The former Ticinese criminal court judge, Franco Verda, who is being held in police custody on corruption charges, has been barred from seeing his lawyer since last Friday.

This content was published on August 14, 2000 - 09:17

Verda's lawyer, Mario Molo, was informed by the special prosecutor, Luciano Guidici that he could no longer consult his client, who is being investigated for alleged breach of confidentiality rules, partiality in court and accepting bribes.

Verda is suspected of helping the alleged boss of an international cigarette smuggling ring, Gerardo Cuomo. He was arrested on August 4 and has since been held in the high security wing of the municipal Lugano hospital.

Verda's lawyer, Mario Molo, said: "This is the first time in my long career that this kind of thing has happened to me."

Under canton Ticino's criminal law, private meetings between defendants and their lawyer can be stopped, if there are security risks. This is to prevent lawyers from helping to falsify the testimonies of their clients based on information they exchanged among each other.

Molo said he feared the ruling would exclude him from a cross-examination of Verda, his wife, Desirée Rinaldi, and the alleged mafia boss, Cuomo.

The prosecutor, Guidici, is expected to begin the cross-examinations on Wednesday. He has indicated that he will be trying to reconcile conflicting accounts of how and why Cuomo gave Verda's wife SFr350,000.

The money was supposedly intended to be used as a cash injection for the financially destitute mineral water producer, Acque minerali San Bernardino.

On Monday, the tabloid newspaper "Blick" reported that the scandal, known as Ticinogate, had also led to the murder of a suspected member of the smuggling ring in Greece on Saturday.

According to the newspaper, Saverio Benvenuto, who was gunned down in Athens, was a close associate of Cuomo.

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