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Guatemala court throws out appeal by Swiss drug smugglers

Nicolas Hänggi and Silvio Giovanoli were seeking to overturn their convictions for drug trafficking


A court in Guatemala has thrown out an appeal by two Swiss men serving 12-year sentences for drug trafficking. Nicolas Hänggi and Silvio Giovanoli were seeking to overturn their convictions for smuggling cocaine to Europe.

The appeal court upheld the convictions of the two men, ruling that they would have to complete their prison sentences, which were handed down in 1998.

It is not clear whether their lawyers will try to overturn the ruling, but the Swiss ambassador in Guatemala, Christian Hauswirth, said he thought they would have little chance of bringing the case to court again.

The appeal was the latest twist in a long-running legal saga, which began in 1997, when the two men were arrested on suspicion of smuggling cocaine worth $100 million (SFr175 million) to Europe in containers carrying ornamental flowers.

They were convicted the following year, along with three others, and sentenced to prison terms of up to 20 years.

After appeals by both the defendants and the Guatemalan authorities, three of the defendants were freed, including Hänggi's father, Andreas, a former executive for the Swiss food giant, Nestlé.

Hänggi and Giovanoli were then re-tried in August 2000, and had their sentences reduced to 12 years.

Lawyers for the two men maintain that police in Guatemala botched the original investigation, and accuse the authorities of having launched the case to demonstrate the success of their drive against drugs trafficking to the United States.

swissinfo with agencies

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