Guatemala frees Swiss drug smuggler

Silvio Giovanoli (left) and Nicolas Hänggi enter a Guatemalan court in March 2000 Keystone Archive

A Swiss man convicted of smuggling cocaine has been freed from jail in Guatemala after serving half of his 12-year sentence.

This content was published on December 9, 2003 - 07:43

News of Silvio Giovanoli's release comes one month after another Swiss, Nicolas Hänggi - who was imprisoned on the same charges - was set free.

Silvio Giovanoli was arrested in August 1997 with Hänggi, in connection with the discovery of a large stash of cocaine.

Peter Brunold, Swiss ambassador to Guatemala, confirmed that Giovanoli had been released and was now in Germany.

Six-year saga

Their legal case took numerous twists and turns in the six years after their arrest, numerous appeals were lodged and two judges were dismissed.

The two men were convicted in 1998 along with Hänggi’s father, Andreas – a former director of the Swiss food giant, Nestlé, in Guatemala – and two others.

Nicolas Hänggi and Giovanoli were handed down 20-year prison terms, while Andreas Hänggi received a 12-year sentence.

But following appeals, Andreas Hänggi and two others were freed.

At a retrial in August 2000, Nicolas Hänggi and Giovanoli had their sentences cut to 12 years apiece.

Good behaviour

The two Swiss were convicted of smuggling cocaine worth $100 million (SFr136 million) to Europe in containers full of ornamental flowers.

They always maintained their innocence and repeatedly sought to overturn their convictions, but withdrew their final appeal in May 2002.

In January of this year, lawyers for Hänggi and Giovanoli received the legal documentation authorising their early release from prison on the grounds of good behaviour.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Silvio Giovanoli and Nicolas Hänggi were arrested in 1997 for smuggling cocaine to Europe.

Initially, they were sentenced to 20 years in prison, but this was reduced to 12 years in August 2000.

Hänggi was released in early November for good behaviour.

On Tuesday, the Swiss embassy in Guatemala City confirmed that Giovanoli had been released on November 28 and was now in Germany.

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