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Police raid bank linked to Mafia scam

The financial police have raided the premises of the Lausanne branch of the Portuguese bank, Espirito Santo, to try to find evidence on one of its employees who has been linked to the Mafia. The employee is accused of helping to launder SFr1.5 billion.

The Mafia siphoned off the money from the European Union via the Internet.

A spokesman for canton Vaud's police force confirmed reports in the Swiss newspaper "Le Matin" on Saturday which said that the Cosa Nostra was behind a scam to steal the European Union subsidies destined for Sicily.

Reports in various Italian newspapers said that the Mafia had gone to the trouble of setting up a phoney Internet page identical to the one used by the Bank of Sicily. The funds from the EU were then diverted into the spoof site while the real web page was paralysed by telecommunications experts aiding the Cosa Nostra.

In the second stage of the carefully orchestrated operation around SFr206 million of the stolen money were to be laundered through the Vatican's Espirito Santo bank in Lausanne, according to the Italian press. However, the bank's management said it was not able to trace any of the alleged money transfers through its accounts.

The employee wanted for questioning by the financial police in connection with the planned heist is maintaining his innocence despite being "absent on overseas travel".

swissinfo with agencies

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