Wealthy Swiss soccer boss vanishes

Football boss Helios Jermini has been missing since Tuesday Keystone

The president of Lugano football club has vanished, according to Swiss authorities.

This content was published on March 7, 2002 minutes

Helios Jermini, a wealthy real estate millionaire and financier, has not been seen since Tuesday.

Police were alerted to his disappearance after the Ticino-based soccer boss failed to show up for a scheduled business meeting in the Italian city of Milan that evening.

According to the "Corriere del Ticino" newspaper, Jermini set off alone for the meeting in a luxury Audi sedan - a regular journey the financier usually makes with a chauffeur.

Ticino chief prosecutor Luca Marcellini announced the disappearance on Wednesday evening, but asked the media not to publish the news.

Kidnap speculation

Authorities say the 62-year-old's disappearance is a mystery and they are not ruling out the possibility of foul play or an accident.

The mass-market Blick newspaper speculated on Thursday whether Jermini had been kidnapped.

Questions have also been raised about whether the disappearance could be related to the poor financial health of the club, which carries debts of SFr10.5 million ($6.25 million).

The debt was taken over last year by a Liechtenstein company - Football and Sport Financial Ltd - co-owned by Jermini.

The club has also been subject to complaints over recent years about a lack of financial transparency.

Jermini has been heavily involved in running the club since 1985 - taking over as president in 1995.

Financial history

Jermini first came to national prominence in 1996 after persuading a well-known Italian financier, Pietro Belardelli, to invest in the club. Prosecutors launched an inquiry into the source of the funding, but later dropped their investigations.

The disappearance has also ignited memories of the kidnapping six years ago of wealthy Lugano hockey club boss Geo Mantegazza.

He was released 36 hours after his abduction, when the Mantegazza family reportedly paid his captors millions. The kidnappers have never been caught.

Married twice with four children, Jermini shares his time between his home in Breganzona in Ticino and a holiday house in Crete.

swissinfo with agencies

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