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Luxembourg ambassador admits to falsifying documents

Peter Friederich denies charges of money laundering swissinfo.ch

Switzerland's ambassador to Luxembourg, in custody on suspicion of money laundering, has admitted that he lied about the origins of some $750,000.

This content was published on July 17, 2002 - 08:42

The Federal Prosecutor's Office said Peter Friederich made the admission after being arrested in Switzerland last week. The Office added, however, that he was continuing to deny allegations of money laundering.

Friederich was taken into custody by Swiss police after they received a tip-off from Luxembourg that he was involved in laundering money.

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has suspended Friederich until further notice.

"This is a temporary measure as the ministry is not convinced he is guilty," the foreign minister said in a statement.

Deposits

A spokesman for the Prosecutor's Office, Hansjürg Mark Wiedmer, said Friederich had made deposits worth SFr1.25 million ($750,000) into bank accounts in Luxembourg during the second half of 2001.

The spokesman said Friederich had falsified the documents relating to the deposits, claiming the money had come from the sale of private goods to an acquaintance. Friederich also admitted to falsifying the signature of the alleged buyer.

Wiedmer said the money had in fact come from a third party - not named - who Friederich claimed to know personally.

Origins of money unclear

However, Wiedmer added that the circumstances surrounding the transaction remained unclear, namely the origin of the money.

He added that several people had already been questioned in connection with the case, and that searches had been carried out at Friederich's residence in Switzerland and at locations in Luxembourg.

He refused to give further details, saying only that the Office had also blocked bank accounts.

In a statement on Tuesday, Frederich's lawyer, Jean-René Mermoud, said his client had been set up by the Luxembourg authorities, who denounced him to prove to the European Union that the country was serious about cracking down on money laundering.

"By disclosing information about Peter Friederich's private financial transactions [the bank in question] Bank Dexia, and the Luxembourg press wanted to demonstrate the vigilance of the banking sector in the face of pressure from the EU."

He added that all Friederich's transactions had been transparent, and that the recipients were known to his client.

Tip-off from Luxembourg

The Luxembourg authorities told the Swiss last February that they had reason to believe that Friederich was laundering money.

Legal sources in Luxembourg told swissinfo that because of Friederich's diplomatic status, the Luxembourg authorities were not able to arrest him, so they passed their dossier to Switzerland.

The Swiss opened their own investigation on April 8, and arrested Friederich during a trip to Switzerland last week.

Experienced diplomat

The 60-year-old Friederich was ambassador to Vietnam and Cuba before taking up his post in Luxembourg in December 1999. He has worked for the foreign ministry since 1971.

In a statement on Tuesday, his lawyer said Friederich regretted that the affair had negative effects for Switzerland and the foreign ministry, but that he was confident his name would be cleared.

swissinfo with agencies

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