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Ex-Swiss Financier Convicted

July 8, 1999

BERN, Switzerland (AP) _ A former Swiss financier extradited last year from the Bahamas was given a four-year jail sentence Thursday after being found guilty of charges including fraudulent bankruptcy and attempted fraud.

Werner Rey already has spent more than three years in detention and that time will be deducted from his sentence, a panel of judges said in their ruling after a five-week trial.

The Swiss government claimed Rey, 55, defrauded European investors of more than $1 billion and left $2.8 billion in public and private debt when his business empire collapsed in 1991.

Prosecutors had demanded a 10-year sentence, while the defense pleaded for acquittal. Rey was acquitted on one charge of business fraud, but is liable for costs totaling some $3.18 million.

Both sides immediately said they plan to appeal the ruling.

Rey, who denied any wrongdoing, made his money in a takeover of Bally, a Swiss shoe manufacturer. He used heavily leveraged deals in the 1980s to build up his main company, Omni Holding AG.

Rey and his wife fled Switzerland for the Bahamas in 1991 and became permanent residents of the country in 1992. He was arrested in March 1996 and was held in a Nassau prison cell while his lawyers fought to keep him in the Bahamas.

He has been kept in detention in Bern since his extradition in June last year.

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