Ex-ambassador jailed for money laundering

Peter Friederich (centre) in front of the court building in Bellinzona Keystone

The former Swiss ambassador to Luxembourg, Peter Friederich, has been sentenced to three and half years in jail.

This content was published on June 6, 2005 - 14:24

The Federal Criminal Court found him guilty of money laundering as well as embezzlement, damaging creditors’ interests and falsifying documents.

But the court in Bellinzona cleared him of accusations of belonging to and assisting a criminal organisation.

Friederich was ordered to pay a SFr15,000 ($12,000) fine and a number of his assets were seized.

Judges said the former ambassador had accepted SFr2.4 million from Spanish-Colombian drug dealers in 2001 while he was ambassador to Luxembourg.

He deposited the money in various bank accounts and received SFr134,000 as a reward, the judges said on Monday. They added that he should have known that the money was of criminal origin.

Prosecutors had called for a six-year jail sentence for Friederich who pleaded not guilty to most of the charges.

Stock market

During his diplomatic career, Friederich invested large sums of money in the stock market on behalf of friends and associates, promising them a high return on their investments.

But when the stock market crashed in 2000, the former ambassador lost SFr5 million ($4.2 million), putting him under financial pressure.

The court said Friederich embezzled investors’ money to pay off debts and for his own ends. It is not clear whether he will appeal against the verdict.

Friederich was arrested in July 2002 after SFr2.37 million ($2 million) in cash deposits turned up in his private account in Luxembourg.

The 63-year-old was held in custody for over a month in the Swiss capital, Bern, before being released pending court proceedings. Later in the year he was suspended from his post and given early retirement.

Friederich’s 30-year diplomatic career included postings to Vietnam, Cuba and finally Luxembourg in 1999.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

1971: Friederich enters diplomatic service.
1999: takes up his post as ambassador to Luxembourg.
2002: arrested in Switzerland on suspicion of money laundering. Released pending court proceedings. Early retirement from diplomatic service.
2005: trial at Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona.

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