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Germans dragging feet in bribery probe says Swiss prosecutor

A Geneva prosecutor says the German authorities aren't in a hurry to scrutinise Elf's purchase of the Leuna refinery


The German authorities are failing to respond to Swiss help in investigations of bribery and political party funding. Geneva's chief prosecutor, Bernard Bertossa, who is probing possible Swiss links, says the Germans have failed to communicate with him.

In an interview with Swiss newspaper "Tages Anzeiger", published on Wednesday, Bertossa said he had handed documents to German justice counterparts but in return there had been nothing but "total... silence".

The Geneva prosecutor has been investigating the 1992 purchase by French oil company Elf Aquitaine of the Leuna refinery in the former East Germany on suspicion of money laundering, document falsification and fraud.

Earlier this month, Bertossa froze SFr800 million ($460 million) in bank accounts. The money is suspected to have come from bribes channelled from Elf to help another French firm land a multi-million dollar contract to sell warships to Taiwan.

The German authorities have taken Bertossa up on an offer to send files to local prosecutors. But the prosecutor said they had been deaf to a request to take over the prosecution of suspected German citizens relayed via the Swiss justice ministry.

Bertossa, who has also publicly criticised British and Russian laxity in other money laundering probes, accused the German authorities of leaking files transmitted by the Swiss to the press, but not exchanging information with the Swiss.

"Almost everything we have sent to Germany in this matter ended up quickly in the German media. But from German justice (officials) we did not hear a thing," Bertossa said.

Two Swiss financiers, suspected of playing a part in the laundering of bribe money, are in prison awaiting trial.

A German parliamentary committee investigating a funding scandal around ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats has welcomed Bertossa's move to make files available.

Part of the millions of dollars paid in commissions for the Leuna sale is thought to have ended up in the coffers of Kohl's party.

German media this week reported bickering between German state and federal authorities over who should have access to the Swiss files. German political parties said they hoped the Swiss information would restart what they have called a stalled German investigation. with agencies


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