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Ex church official gets prison term for fraud

A priest and former ecclesiastical judge of the diocese of Fribourg, Geneva and Lausanne has been found guilty of embezzling SFr486,000 ($447,830).

A court in Fribourg in western Switzerland sentenced the cleric to 28 months in prison, most of it suspended for five years. The charges included fraud, breach of trust and filing false documents.

Of the misappropriated funds, SFr100,000 was destined to be paid in compensation to a victim of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy. The diocese, a religious foundation and a former ward of the priest were the victims of the fraud.

The court president highlighted the priest’s embezzlement of his ward’s inheritance as his worst offence. The young woman, a minor at the time, was the daughter of a close friend and was entrusted to his care after her father’s death.

The diocese has said it forgives the former church official, a native of Peru, but has demanded financial reparation. The man worked for the diocese from 1991 to 2003, securing his position with a false diploma.

The priest’s lawyer said he intended to appeal against the custodial sentence, citing the man’s epilepsy as diminishing his responsibility.

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