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Former judge and mafia boss found guilty in “Ticinogate” case

Both Franco Verda (right) and Gerardo Cuomo received suspended jail sentences

A former Swiss judge and one-time president of canton Ticino's criminal court, Franco Verda, and a suspected mafia boss, Gerardo Cuomo, have been found guilty of corruption at the end of a high-profile trial in the city of Lugano.

In what has been dubbed the “Ticinogate”case, Verda was found guilty of corruption and accepting kickbacks from Cuomo who was also found guilty of corruption.

After a six-hour court hearing, the judge handed down an 18-month suspended sentence to Verda. Cuomo was given a 10-month suspended sentence and banned from entering Switzerland for the next five years.

The Swiss High court has also agreed that Cuomo can be extradited to Italy where he is wanted on cigarette smuggling charges. He is due to appear in a court in Bari in southern Italy on July 17.

During the eight-day trial, the two men gave different and often conflicting testimonies. According to the Swiss journalist, Jürg Bischoff, who followed the hearing, the court’s first hurdle was deciding which of the two defendants’ versions of events was more plausible.

“The court came to the verdict that Cuomo was more credible, that in fact the judge Verda was the mastermind of this whole affair, ” Bischoff told swissinfo. “That it was Verda’s idea to contact (mafia boss Francesco)Prudentino and to offer him a positive verdict against a kickback for the judge.”

The incident which led to the arrest and trial of the two men happened two years ago when Verda was dealing with a case involving SFr3.2 million seized from bank accounts belonging to Prudentino. Verda reportedly accepted SFr800,000 ($454,000) in bribes from Cuomo for releasing funds frozen in Prudentino’s Swiss bank accounts.

“Ticinogate” has sent shockwaves through the canton’s judicial system and has also drawn attention to Switzerland’s role in the illegal trade in cigarettes, a contentious issue in its relations with the European Union.

The case also strained relations between Switzerland and Italy last year, with the Italian government rebuking Bern for “sheltering” Cuomo for more than two years and allowing the continuation of his import-export business.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR