Mafia tobacco-smuggling acquittals upheld

A Swiss court has confirmed the previous acquittals of seven of the nine defendants accused of money laundering in the country's largest organised crime trial.

This content was published on March 21, 2012 - 17:40 and agencies

But the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona on Wednesday upheld the convictions of two defendants for supporting a criminal organisation, handed down in July 2009 as part of a major international tobacco-smuggling ring case.

The two men had received suspended prison sentences of 28 months and 21 months. Charges of money laundering were dropped by the court in Italian-speaking Switzerland.

Funds blocked by Switzerland were also released by the court, as it had not been possible to prove their ties to illegal activities.

The new trial, which opened in January, followed appeals by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office and the two convicted defendants after the Swiss Federal Court annulled the initial verdicts in 2009.

The nine defendants who lived in Switzerland, including four Swiss citizens, three Italians, one Spaniard and one Frenchman, had been accused of laundering more than $1 billion (SFr913 million) from tobacco smuggling between Montenegro and Italy from 1994-2001.

Prosecutors had maintained that the defendants used Switzerland as a hub for laundering money from Italy's powerful Camorra and Sacra Corona Unita organisations, bringing large sums of cash from Italy into Switzerland and placing it money into bank accounts, from which it entered the legitimate global financial system.

They said the money was then used to buy untaxed cigarettes in the United States and Latin America. They were smuggled into Italy, where they could undercut legitimately taxed cigarettes at low prices. The defendants allegedly supplied their Italian clients with more than two billion packets of cigarettes over the years, prosecutors said.

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In compliance with the JTI standards

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