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Former bank executive cleared in biggest Swiss money-laundering case

A Swiss appeals court on Monday cleared a former bank director of money laundering in Switzerland's biggest-ever such case, ruling that the alleged crime was committed too long ago to be punishable.

This content was published on June 14, 1999 - 14:41

A Swiss appeals court on Monday cleared a former bank director of money laundering in the country's biggest-ever such case, ruling that the alleged crime was committed too long ago to be punishable.

In 1997, a lower court threw out the most serious charges against Josef Oberholzer, a former vice director of the Union Bank of Switzerland.
But prosecutors appealed. The appeals court threw the case out because of the statute of limitations.

Oberholzer, 65, was alleged to have laundered and then administered Colombian drug money since the 1970s. The funds, which appreciated in the account to $175 million, were confiscated and split between the United States and Switzerland.

"It is absolutely clear to me that I'm not a money launderer," Oberholzer told the appeals hearing. He said he acted according to the rules prevailing at the time and had no indication the money came from drug dealings.

Oberholzer had been accused of violating money laundering laws when he handled the account of a Colombian couple, Julio Nasser David and Sheila Miriam Arana de Nasser.

The former banker, now retired, was arrested in 1994, the same day as police in western Switzerland arrested Arana de Nasser and the Zurich account was frozen.

Arana de Nasser was extradited to the United States in 1995. A year later, she was sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined $4 million by a Miami federal judge for her part in smuggling 30 tons of cocaine and 3 million pounds (1.3 million kilos) of marijuana into the United States.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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