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Zäch insists on his innocence

Guido Zäch founded the Swiss Paraplegics Foundation in 1975

(Keystone)

On the first day of an appeal hearing for Guido Zäch, founder of the Swiss Paraplegics Foundation, the prosecution demanded a prison sentence for embezzlement.

Zäch protested his innocence and demanded an acquittal. Defence and prosecution had both challenged the first-instance verdict of two years in prison.

Guido Zäch, one of Switzerland's best-known doctors, was found guilty in 2003 of mismanaging SFr29.4 million ($22.7 million) of the foundation's money.

The appeal trial opened on Tuesday in Basel, with the defence calling for Zäch's sentence to be overturned due to gaps in the prosecution's arguments.

However the prosecution has also lodged an appeal as it considers that the first trial did not cover all 12 charges laid against the 70-year-old doctor, who is also a former parliamentarian.

A motion to delay the trial by a month was rejected.

In the original judgement, Zäch was found guilty of just four of the charges and was acquitted of embezzlement.

Zäch, who has hired a new defence team for the trial, has always maintained his innocence.

"I haven't deserved anything else," he wrote in a letter sent to the media ahead of the trial.

A verdict is expected by the end of the week.

Denial

In his court appearance in 2003 Zäch denied that he had used the foundation's money to invest in loss-making projects and real estate investments between 1990 and 1999.

He was also accused of taking an extra SFr1.5 million in salary payments in the 1990s. Other charges included buying a SFr2 million house for the foundation and pocketing profits from the deal.

Zäch was then said to have used the foundation's money to renovate the property, which his family later used until 2000.

Handing down their verdict, judges at the original trial said that the doctor had acted outside his remit and could no longer distinguish between his personal and the foundation's interests.

He resigned his post as parliamentarian for the centre-right Christian Democrats shortly afterwards.

Zäch built up his foundation, based in Nottwil in central Switzerland, from scratch and was highly respected for his work with paraplegics.

Investigations into his dealings began after the vice-director of the foundation, Marc Suter, resigned in 2000.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Zäch was colonel in the armed forces (military service) and local parliamentarian for Basel.
From 1999 to 2003 he was parliamentarian for the Aargau branch of the Christian Democrats.
He stepped down from this post after his sentence in 2003.

end of infobox

In brief

70-year-old doctor Guido Zäch is an expert on treating paraplegics and a staunch defender of his work.

He founded the Swiss Paraplegics Foundation in 1975 and the Swiss Paraplegics Centre in 1990. They are both in Nottwil, canton Lucerne.

He handed over the direction of the centre on October 1 this year. But he is still in charge of the foundation.

end of infobox


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