The Associated Press April 21, 2011, 11:30AM ET

Swiss court acquits banker in corruption case

Switzerland's highest federal criminal court Thursday cleared a Zurich banker of charges of bribery and money laundering and awarded him more than 400,000 Swiss francs ($450,000) in damages.

Prosecutors had alleged that Oskar Holenweger took 1 million Swiss francs to create anonymous bank accounts for French engineering company Alstom SA, the maker of electric power plants and TGV high speed trains, to use in bribing foreign officials.

The verdict by the Federal Criminal Court clearing Holenweger after a more than seven-year legal odyssey that garnered huge headlines in Switzerland was a defeat for prosecutors who had described the case as an effort to bolster the nation's efforts to get tougher on corruption.

The president of the court, Peter Popp, said none of the charges against Holenweger were supported by sufficient evidence.

The French company wasn't on trial and has refrained from publicly commenting. It did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Prosecutors said during trial that Holenweger opened 163 different accounts in his private bank and some commercial banks to help Alstom funnel 80 million francs to officials in exchange for contracts in South America and Asia. The Swiss government froze Alstom's money that Holenweger deposited in the Swiss commercial banks and in the private bank. The company was not on trial.

"The question whether he knew that the money would be used for bribery remains unanswered," Popp said.

Holenweger lawyer, Lorenz Erni, said he was pleased with the ruling.

Federal prosecutor Lienhard Ochsner said he would decide later whether to appeal to Federal Supreme Court.


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