Swiss court finds German trader guilty in fraud case

The woman was found guilty of concocting a fraud worth hundreds of millions of francs. © Ti-press

Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court has sentenced a German woman, who was at the helm of a trading company, to 45 months behind bars in a hefty fraud case.

This content was published on August 30, 2021 - 16:32

The 71-year-old woman, a former director of the Lucerne-based trading company Fera, was accused of obtaining loans from banks by producing fictitious documents and thus concocting a fraud worth hundreds of millions of francs.

This is one of the largest fraud cases in Switzerland that has ever come before the Federal Prosecutor's Office, according to Keystone-SDA news agency. The main hearing took place at the beginning of July, but the verdict was delivered on Monday.

The woman, whose lawyer has already announced the intent to appeal, was found guilty of several offences: multiple document forgery, fraud by trade and mismanagement. The court estimated the amount of the fraud at over CHF300 million.

According to the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG), the German citizen falsified countless documents between 2002 and 2010, the year of the company's bankruptcy, while managing the commercial company Fera. However, the statute of limitations has expired for offences committed before August 31, 2006.

Forgeries were used to certify fictitious business transactions to banks and collect debts amounting to several hundred million francs. In other words, they were used to certify the sale of machines that had never actually taken place.

The prosecution spoke of the construction of a "network of lies" to convince the financial community of the reality of the transactions. In truth, the number of deals that went through was very limited.

Of the financial institutions involved in the affair, the worst affected is the former Skandifinanz Bank (now Skandifinanz), which has claimed a total of CHF134 million euros since the beginning of the affair. The claims of three other banks amount to more than CHF 22 million.

The bankruptcy estate of Fera AG and its parent company Blue Steel Holding (BSH) - controlled by the defendant's husband, who was acquitted - also filed claims amounting to 206 million and 123 million francs respectively.

In reading the sentence, the president of the court spoke of a "very serious culpability," describing the woman as driven by greed for profit and a selfish desire to boost her social standing. This, he said, was also demonstrated during the trial, in which she defended expensive clothing purchases on her part, describing them as "reasonable".

Between 2002 and 2009, the defendant spent about CHF 1 million in a single boutique in Frankfurt. Around the same time, cash withdrawals of CHF9.4 million were made.

The three judges largely followed the prosecutor's arguments and rejected those of the defense. They considered mitigating factors such as the long time that had passed since the offenses and the extremely long duration of the proceedings.

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