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Probe increases pressure on embattled Geneva minister

Gérard Ramseyer, Geneva's justice and police minister, is facing calls to step down


Thirty-seven employees of Geneva's Bankruptcy Office are being investigated on suspicion of corruption possible illegal practices, as part of a probe launched by the cantonal government. The scandal is threatening to claim the scalp of the minister responsible.

Geneva's government says it is investigating the activities of 37 of the office's employees as part of an inquiry into allegations of mismanagement and corruption at its Bankruptcy Office.

A much-anticipated report by cantonal Finance Ministry inspectors accused certain Bankruptcy Office workers of committing "serious offences and possibly crimes". The also criticised "the almost complete lack of supervision" in the department.

The cantonal government said it would notify the cantonal prosecutor general, Bernard Bertossa, should the investigators discover that crimes had been committed.

As the scale of the problems at the office has become apparent, pressure has grown on the minister responsible, Gérard Ramseyer, to step down.

Already one former employee of the office has been arrested for embezzling SFr3.5 million. In their report, the financial inspectors said the crime was made possible by the total absence of controls by the office's hierarchy.

They also revealed the existence of 15 false bank accounts, used to conceal a slush fund. These accounts were apparently used to pay illegally employed temporary workers and for entertainment.

Last week, two reports accused employees at the office of workplace bullying, abuse of power, false accounting, helping themselves to property being taken from vacated premises and accepting gifts in return for favours.

"It confirms the fraud, the cronyism and the impunity that have for too long been like a gangrene in this sector," the Tribune de Genève newspaper said at the time.

Ramseyer, who has been minister for police and justice for the past eight years, has said he will not resign. But his party, the centre-right Radicals, have suggested he will not be a candidate in this autumn's cantonal elections if the accusations against him are substantiated.

by Roy Probert


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