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Zappelli wins race to succeed Bertossa

Daniel Zappelli will succeed Bernard Bertossa as Geneva's chief prosecutor

(Keystone)

Daniel Zappelli has won the race to become canton Geneva's next chief prosecutor.

Zappelli was confirmed the winner after a recount showed he had just scrapped past the challenger Jean-Bernard Schmid.

Zappelli squeaked through with a majority of less than one per cent. The recount showed he had won 50.09 per cent of the ballots cast.

The centre-right Zappelli is to succeed Bernard Bertossa, who gained an international recognition for his work in combating money laundering and organised crime over the past 12 years.

Zappelli is known to favour focusing on petty crime, and his style is expected to be very different from that of Bertossa, who most recently prosecuted a former high ranking Kremlin official for laundering kickbacks he was alleged to have received while working under Boris Yeltsin.

It's only the second time in the canton's history that an election has been held for the position of chief prosecutor, who is elected every six years. The ballot box is only brought out when more than one candidate applies for the post.

Schmid was seen as the continuity candidate. He had pledged to take up Bertossa's torch and maintain the fight against organised crime.

Safer Geneva

In the run-up to the vote, Zappelli stressed that his top priority was to make Geneva a safer place.

"As chief prosecutor, I would also be a Geneva official and that makes safety in Geneva my absolute priority," Zappelli told Swiss radio.

The 38-year-old Geneva judge's desire to target petty criminals rather than international money launderers has gone down well in some quarters.

"Some companies have started avoiding Geneva as a business centre because the money laundering investigations were getting out of hand," said Geneva lawyer Dominique Poncet, a long-time critic of Bertossa, who defended Borodin.

"Companies have now moved to other countries such as England, Luxembourg or Liechtenstein."

Fight continues

Schmid, who was seen as Bertossa's "natural successor", had pledged to continue Bertossa's work of tracking down international criminals.

"We can't sit and wait for the banks to approach us in this matter," he said before the outcome was known. "We have to investigate the information we get from the police and press. We must also take on complex international cases."

However, observers say that even if Schmid had won, he would have found it difficult to emulate his predecessor because the prosecution of major cases of organised crime and money laundering was handed over to the federal government at the beginning of this year.

New regulation

However, Bertossa thinks the new regulation would not hinder a willing prosecutor too much. "I don't think the new law will change that much. If Geneva's chief prosecutor wants to open proceedings, he will still be able to do it.

"The new law is pretty opaque and the federal prosecutors are too busy to take over all the work from the Geneva chief prosecutor. I think he will still have enough room to conduct his own proceedings, even on an international level."

Zappelli, though, is convinced that his work is on a local level. "Now it is up to the federal government to lead the fight against money laundering," he said.

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