Verdict expected in "Ticinogate" trial

Gerardo Cuomo and Franco Verda faced an eight day trial in Lugano

A verdict is expected on Wednesday afternoon following the high-profile corruption trial of a former Swiss judge, Franco Verda. A suspected mafia boss, Gerardo Cuomo, has also been on trial with him.

This content was published on June 27, 2001

Verda has been standing trial in Lugano for the past eight days accused of accepting kickbacks from Cuomo and violating his oath of office.

Cuomo, who is wanted in Italy on cigarette smuggling charges, is accused of complicity in corruption and breaking the federal law on foreigners.

Prosecutors on Tuesday repeated their demand for a two-year jail term for Verda and an 18-month suspended sentence for Cuomo.

The corruption case, known as "Ticinogate", sent shockwaves through the canton Ticino judicial system when it came to light last year. It has also drawn attention to Switzerland's role in the illegal trade in cigarettes, a contentious issue in its relations with the European Union.

Verda, 60, is charged with four counts of corruption and similar offences. The one-time president of the canton's criminal court is suspected of pocketing SFr800,000 ($454,000) in bribes from Cuomo.

The charges are believed to relate to an incident two years ago when Verda was dealing with a case involving SFr3.2 million seized from bank accounts belonging to Francesco Prudentino, the head of an Italian mafia syndicate. Verda is accused of accepting a quarter of the sum in exchange for releasing funds frozen in Prudentino's Swiss bank accounts.

Italy is seeking Cuomo's extradition for cigarette smuggling so that he can face charges at a court in the southern city of Bari.

Cuomo, however, is expected to be extradited on a lesser count. He cannot be deported on cigarette smuggling charges because it is not a crime in Switzerland. Cigarette smuggling is treated as tax evasion in Switzerland and, as such, does not qualify for cross-border judicial assistance.

The "Ticinogate" affair strained relations between Switzerland and Italy last year, with the Italian government rebuking Bern for "sheltering" Cuomo for more than two years and allowing the continuation of his import-export business.

swissinfo with agencies

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