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Swiss to press ahead with Russia corruption inquiry

Geneva judge, Bernard Bertossa, said the Swiss inquiry would continue

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss justice authorities are to proceed with an investigation into claims that two Swiss companies bribed high-ranking Russian officials for lucrative contracts to renovate the Kremlin. The decision comes a month after Russia dropped its inquiry.

Announcing the decision on Monday, the Geneva prosecutor handling the case, Bernard Bertossa, said the Swiss investigation would continue.

Bertossa is probing allegations that two companies based in canton Ticino, Mabetex and Mercata, paid millions of dollars in bribes to high-ranking Kremlin officials, including family members of the former Russian president, Boris Yeltsin.

Also implicated is the former Kremlin finance chief, Pavel Borodin.

Lawyers representing the two firms argue that even if bribes were paid, no crime was committed because bribery of foreign officials was not a crime under Swiss law at the time.

But the Swiss inquiry is focusing on allegations that the two companies were used by Russian officials to launder money in Switzerland.

The Russian authorities dropped the case last month, on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to proceed. At the time, the decision was criticised by Russia's former chief prosecutor, Yuri Skuratov, who said it was "more about politics than justice".

The boss of Mabetex, Beghjet Pacolli, has been charged in Switzerland with handing out bribes totalling $4 million (SFr6.5 million). Mercata is alleged to have given bribes worth $60 million.

swissinfo with agencies

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