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Switzerland launches investigation into Rich holdings

Marc Rich and his ex-wife, Denise Rich, who reportedly raised considerable funds for the Democratic Party in recent years

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss finance ministry has launched an investigation into the holding company of the billionaire commodity trader, Marc Rich, who was pardoned by former President Bill Clinton for tax evasion, fraud and racketeering last month.

The Swiss Money Laundering Control Authority is hoping to find out whether Rich's Glencore business conducted any transactions which violated Switzerland's money laundering laws.

"We have opened an inquiry, but this does not mean that Marc Rich's holding company is suspected of laundering dirty money," said the finance ministry spokesman, Daniel Eckmann.

Eckmann said they would try to find out if Rich's business was a bonafide primary commodities enterprise. If the company's activities are found to be legitimate, the business would not have to undergo scrutiny.

If found to have broken the law, Rich may face a fine of up to SFr200,000.

In an interview with the Swiss newspaper, "Blick", Rich's lawyer André Wicki said that Rich would transfer his business to London or close it down altogether if Glencore was investigated.

Wicki called Switzerland's money laundering laws "absurd".

"The threat made by Rich's lawyer to transfer their business abroad if their company becomes the subject of an inquiry does not influence the authorities who have been charged with overseeing the investigation," confirmed Eckmann.

"If the big commodity companies leave, then Canton Zug would lose several million francs in taxes," Wicki added.

Marc Rich has been living in exile in Switzerland for more than 15 years. He fled the United States in 1983 just before he was indicted for tax evasion of more than $48 million (SFr77.28 million) and for circumventing US oil price restrictions.

Rich was pardoned by former President Clinton on his last day in office in January.

Rich and his partner, Pincus (Pinky) Green, who was also pardoned by Clinton, set up the trading company "Mark Rich International" in Zug in 1974. In 1994, the company changed its name to Glencore International.

swissinfo


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