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Swiss shrug off boycott threat of senior German politician

Perraudin said it was normal procedure to compile lists with names for international enquiries

(Keystone Archive)

The justice authorities in Geneva have defended their investigating methods into an alleged corruption scandal involving the French company, Elf Aquitaine, and the purchase of the German Leuna refinery.

In response to a complaint by the former head of Germany's opposition Christian Democratic Union party, Wolfgang Schäuble, a Geneva magistrate on Thursday said it was normal procedure to compile lists with names for international inquiries.

Paul Perraudin, an investigation judge, said such a list was also necessary for the inquiry into the Elf-Leuna affair, but it did not mean that the people named were directly involved in the scandal.

Schäuble had complained that since his name is on the list of 37 people passed on to the German authorities last month, he would automatically be perceived by the general public as a suspect in the case.

There has also been speculation that Schäuble is hiding money in Switzerland in an attempt to dodge taxes.

In a letter to the Swiss authorities last week, Schäuble said he would not travel to Switzerland next month to give a planned speech to finance ministry experts.

A spokesman for the ministry said Schäuble's boycott, if maintained, would be deplorable. But he pointed out that the federal authorities had nothing to do with the list of names.

Heavy pressure

“Schäuble’s harsh criticism of the Geneva justice authorities shows that he is under heavy pressure at home”, Benedikt Vogel, Berlin correspondent for the Basler Zeitung newspaper, told swissinfo.

Vogel says it is unlikely that the controversy will strain diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Germany.

Switzerland has been asked to provide assistance to Germany in the case, because illegal money from the French company is alleged to have passed through Swiss bank accounts.

But it is not clear if funds were paid to the Christian Democratic Union, which was in power when Elf allegedly paid millions in bribes to buy a refinery in the former East Germany in 1992.

swissinfo with agencies


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