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Swiss ambassador suspected of laundering drug money

Peter Friederich will remain in detention until August 15 Keystone Archive

The decision to extend the detention of Switzerland's ambassador to Luxembourg was based on suspicions that he laundered drug money.

Documents released by the Federal Court on Wednesday reveal that Peter Friederich paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in various currencies into his account at a Luxembourg bank. The sums were then transferred to accounts in other countries, including Switzerland.

Friederich’s lawyer, Jean-René Mermoud, has denied the charges on behalf of his client. In an interview with the French-language Le Temps on Friday, Mermoud said Friederich had admitted to tax fraud and had deposited funds from Spain in Luxembourg banks.

The Federal Court has said it finds the tax evasion argument “scarcely credible”.

“The main beneficiaries of the transfers are known to be involved in criminal activities, particularly drug trafficking,” wrote the court. It added that this evidence was reason enough to keep Friederich in custody until August 15.

Judges also said that there was a risk Friederich would contact his associates if he were freed, hindering the ongoing investigation. They added that the Federal Prosecutor’s Office now had to identify the source of the money and all the beneficiaries.

Unknown beneficiary

Investigators especially want to find out who the ambassador was transferring money to in Switzerland. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office said on Wednesday that it is questioning a person it believes supplied the ambassador with some of the money.

Friederich was arrested in Bern on July 8 – and subsequently suspended – after the Luxembourg authorities accused him of money laundering and falsifying documents.

He has admitted to lying about the origin of deposits worth SFr1.25 million ($750,000) paid into bank accounts in Luxembourg, but denies charges of money laundering. He has refused to collaborate further with investigators since last week’s decision to keep him in custody.

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