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Ticino lawyer on trial for money laundering

Francesco Moretti in court last month (TI-presse)

(swissinfo.ch)

One of Switzerland's biggest money-laundering cases kicks off on Monday against a Ticino lawyer, accused of laundering over SFr60 million for the Italian mafia.

Francesco Moretti, 62, faces charges of belonging to the mafia, fraud, financing drug deals and money laundering.

Calabrian-born Moretti, a Swiss citizen with his own law firm in Lugano, has been remanded in custody for the past 33 months.

He was arrested in Ticino in August 2000, after investigators found SFr12 million ($9 million) in cash stashed in his office in Vacallo, near Chiasso.

His name first cropped up during the "Ticinogate" scandal, when investigators linked him to a former Swiss judge, Franco Verda, and a suspected mafia boss, Gerardo Cuomo.

Verda, one-time president of canton Ticino's criminal court, was found guilty in 2001 of corruption and of accepting kickbacks from Cuomo, who was also charged with corruption.

Mafia clans

The Swiss authorities suspect Moretti of having been a financial advisor to key mafia clans both in Italy and in the United States.

Ticino's state prosecutor, Bruno Balestra, who is pressing the charges, also accuses Moretti of organising a major drug deal in 1993.

He says Moretti laundered SFr19 million of the drug profits in Switzerland.

Bogus firms

Moretti is also being accused of laundering around SFr44 million arising from other fraudulent deals through Swiss banks, with the help of an Italian businessman, Giovanni Pozzi.

Pozzi is currently standing trial before a court in Varese, Italy. Moretti has refused to testify in the case.

Pozzi is believed to have crossed the Swiss-Italian border every week with a car with a false floor, hiding around SFr400,000 each time he entered Switzerland.

According to Moretti's former secretary, the money was then laundered through a bogus firm in Ticino.

Balestra says he has evidence that some of the smuggled lira was exchanged into US dollars and then sent to Mafia organisations in Latin America.

Weapons

Moretti lost his licence to practice law for two years in 1981, when he was convicted of breach of trust.

In 1986 he was convicted in Italy for the illegal possession of weapons.

The charge of membership of a criminal organisation that has been laid against Moretti is the first of its kind in canton Ticino.

A verdict is due on June 13.

swissinfo, Gerhard Lob (translation: Tania Peitzker)

In brief

Francesco Moretti is a Swiss citizen and has his own law firm in Lugano.

He was arrested in Ticino in August 2000, after SFr12 million in cash was found in his office.

Moretti faces charges of belonging to the Mafia, fraud, financing drug deals and money laundering.

An Italian businessman, Giovanni Pozzi, is also currently standing trial in Italy, accused of helping Moretti to launder the money.

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