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Krüger jailed in massive fraud case

A court in Berne has handed down a three-and-a-half year jail sentence to the former property tycoon, Peter Krüger. He was found guilty of fraudulent bankruptcy in a multi-million franc case.

A court in Berne has handed down a three-and-a-half year jail sentence to the former property tycoon, Peter Krüger. He was found guilty of fraudulent bankruptcy in a multi-million franc case that raised serious questions about the efficiency of the Bernese justice authorities.

Krüger headed a property empire, which in its heyday employed more than 100 people. He filed for bankruptcy in 1993 with debts of around a quarter of a billion francs.

Shortly after filing for bankruptcy, Krüger left Switzerland for the United States. His hurried departure alerted the justice authorities and a criminal investigation was opened on suspicison that he had hidden away assets.

An international arrest warrant was issued at the end of 1994. More than a year later, Krüger and his wife were arrested in the Cayman Islands. For several months, the Bernese authorities tried unsuccessfully to have him extradited.

In 1997, Krüger agreed to end his Caribbean exile and return voluntarily to Switzerland. On his return, he was charged with fraud and released on bail.

The affair was a huge source of embarrassment for Berne's justice authorities. Not only did Krüger manage to flee Switzerland from under their noses, but it also took them several years to bring him back.

The case bears some striking similarities to that of the failed businessman, Werner Rey, who has also been tried for fraud in Berne.

They started from humble beginnings and went on to build multi-million franc businesses in the affluent 1970s and 80s. Both men were brought down by the collapse of the property market during the recession of the 1990s.

Rey also fled to the Caribbean, but unlike Krüger, he was forcibly returned to Switzerland after a long-drawn out extradition battle.

swissinfo with agencies



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