Embattled ex-Geneva minister to face trial over Abu Dhabi visit

Pierre Maudet gave a press conference on October 29 to announce his plans to officially resign as the head of the department for economic development. Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott

Pierre Maudet, the former Geneva minister for business promotion, is to face trial for allegedly accepting unauthorised financial perks linked to a visit to Abu Dhabi in 2015 - charges he denies.

This content was published on November 3, 2020 - 18:37

The cantonal prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday that it had finalised its investigation and had sent the case to courtExternal link. It involves Maudet, his former chief of staff, two entrepreneurs and a Geneva civil servant.

In July prosecutors said they were finalising an indictment that reportedly concerns a trip to Abu Dhabi in November 2015. Since August 2018, Maudet has been under investigation for allegedly accepting undue financial benefits, notably a trip with his family to the United Arab Emirates to attend the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 race in 2015.

The public prosecutor alleges that Maudet accepted flights and accommodation for himself, his family, and his chief of staff amounting to several tens of thousands of Swiss francs. It claims the costs were paid for by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed bin Al-Nahyan, who had invited him to watch the Formula 1 race.

It alleged that two members of the Geneva property sector were also involved in the organisation of the Abu Dhabi trip.

The prosecutor also claimed that the Geneva minister carried out a poll in his favour in 2017, which cost over CHF30,000 ($32,900), financed by the same two entrepreneurs.

Prosecutors also plan to pursue the case of an authorisation for a Geneva bar, and for breaches of official secrecy. But the attorney general’s office plans to close two other strands of the investigation linked to the minister’s birthday party in 2018 and allegations of funding by Maudet’s election campaign support committees.

Maudet, who unsuccessfully ran for the position of Swiss foreign minister in 2017, has always denied the allegations and apologised for his “imperfections”.

“This indictment contains nothing new,” reacted Grégoire Mangeat, Maudet's lawyer, adding that the accusations against his client are “fragile”.

The trial will take place in the next few months.

On October 29, Maudet, surprised many people in Geneva by announcing his resignation as the head of business promotion. This comes after the cantonal government temporarily stripped him of his position after a critical external auditor’s report into high rates of absenteeism in his department.

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