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Mafia trial ends in historic verdict

The court heard that Moretti worked for the Mafia

(Keystone)

A Mafia lawyer has been sentenced to 14 years in prison - the first person in Switzerland to be convicted of membership of a criminal organisation.

A Lugano court found 62-year-old Francesco Moretti guilty of working for the Italian Mafia and laundering more than SFr60 million ($46 million).

During the two-week trial, Ticino-based Moretti - who pleaded not guilty - insisted he had never been a member of the Italian Mafia.

He also denied any involvement in financing a massive drug deal which saw five tons of cocaine transported from South America to Europe in 1993.

But Judge Agnese Balestra-Bianchi concluded that there was more than enough evidence to convict Moretti of helping to finance the deal.

The court heard that Moretti had travelled to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, in the summer of 1993 and personally handed over SFr11.2 million and $3.2 million.

Money laundering

Balestra-Bianchi said Moretti had also laundered in excess of SFr60 million in drug money and the proceeds from other criminal activities.

The judge added that as a lawyer, and even as a normal citizen, he should have kept away from organised crime.

Balestra-Bianchi said the accused knew exactly what the money transferred by him would be used for.

She said the only consolation was that the Swiss government could reclaim SFr12 million in cash, discovered in a cupboard in Moretti's Ticino office in 2000.

He was arrested in August that year and has been in custody ever since.

Prior convictions

Calabrian-born Moretti, a Swiss citizen with his own law firm in Lugano, lost his licence to practice law for two years in 1981, when he was convicted of breach of trust.

In 1986, he was convicted in Italy for the illegal possession of weapons.

His name first cropped up during the "Ticinogate" scandal, when investigators linked him to a former Swiss judge, Franco Verda, and a suspected mafia boss, Gerardo Cuomo.

It was the first time since its introduction in the Swiss penal code in 1994 that anyone has been convicted of belonging to a criminal organisation.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Francesco Moretti is the first person in Switzerland to be convicted of membership of a criminal organisation.
The 62-year-old Calabrian-born lawyer has been sentenced to 14 years prison.
He was found guilty of laundering more than SFr60 million for the Italian Mafia.
Moretti has also been convicted of helping to finance a 1993 drug deal involving five tons of cocaine imported from South America.

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