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Federal Prosecutor to decide ex-ambassador’s fate

One of Peter Friederich's postings was to Vietnam

(Keystone)

A federal judge has concluded his investigation into a former Swiss ambassador, suspected of laundering drug money.

The case of the former diplomat, Peter Friederich, caused shockwaves in the Swiss foreign ministry when it came to light two years ago.

The judge, Paul Perraudin, confirmed to swissinfo that he would hand his 200-page dossier on the case to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office on Friday. The office will then decide what charges to bring against Friederich.

Friederich was arrested two years ago after it was found that SFr2.2 million ($1.77 million) in cash deposits were paid into his private account in Luxembourg when he was ambassador there.

Spanish connection

The payments were made by a Spanish citizen, suspected by Spain of involvement in the drugs trade and money laundering.

Shortly after being paid into Friederich’s account, the money was transferred to Switzerland and other third countries to bank accounts belonging to people suspected of money laundering or linked to drug trafficking.

Friederich is also facing a number of civil lawsuits.

According to a lawyer representing one of the plaintiffs, the former ambassador was under pressure to launder the money to cover personal financial losses.

Bernard de Chedid told the Associated Press news agency that Friederich had lost SFr5 million on the stock markets in 2000, much of which was money belonging to associates and family members.

“He acted like a gambler,” said de Chedid.

During Friederich’s ambassadorial postings to Cuba, Vietnam and Luxembourg, he played broker for his friends and family, promising them a higher return on their investments than the market average, added de Chedid.

Tax evasion

Friederich’s lawyers claim their client believed the SFr2.2 million deposited in his account by a Spanish fiduciary trustee was to evade taxes.

But the French-language newspaper, “Le Temps”, quoted judicial sources in Spain as saying that Friederich’s Spanish partner had close ties to several Colombian drug cartels.

According to the sources, the Spanish man is suspected of being one of the ringleaders behind a money-laundering network in Europe, and Friederich was one of his accomplices.

Cocaine

Le Temps said that shortly after the last cash deposit was made in early 2002, Spanish police intercepted a boat arriving in the country from Peru with a stash of 600kg of cocaine on board.

The police operation led to the arrest of 15 people, including Friederich’s Spanish partner.

This is thought to be the key evidence the Federal Prosecutor’s Office requires to bring charges against Friederich of aiding and abetting a criminal organisation.

However, Friederich’s lawyers say he knew nothing about the drugs commection, pointing out that the final payment arrived in his account before the discovery of the cocaine shipment.

Friederich’s commission for the transactions is believed to have amounted to no more than SFr75,000.

swissinfo with agencies

friederich

Former ambassador Peter Friederich is suspected of laundering SFr2.2 million.

He has been linked to a Spanish man, believed to have close ties to Colombian drug cartels.

The case has been handed back to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office.

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