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Swiss Bank Exec Cleared of Charges

June 14, 1999

ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) _ A Swiss appeals court today cleared a former bank director of money laundering, ruling that the alleged crime was committed too long ago to be punishable.

Josef Oberholzer, a former vice director of the Union Bank of Switzerland, was charged with laundering $150 million in Colombian drug money _ the largest amount of laundered money Switzerland ever seized.

A lower court in 1997 threw out the most serious charges against Oberholzer, but prosecutors appealed. The appeals court threw the case out because the 10-year statute of limitations had expired.

Prosecutors had accused Oberholzer, 65, of accepting the drug money despite knowing its origins and handling the account since the 1970s.

The funds, which appreciated in an account to $175 million, were confiscated and split between the United States and Switzerland.

``It is absolutely clear to me that I’m not a money launderer,″ Oberholzer said at the appeals court hearing. He said he acted according to the rules prevailing at the time and had no indication the money came from drug dealings.

Oberholzer handled the account of a Colombian couple, Julio and Sheila Nasser.

The former banker, now retired, was arrested in 1994, the same day police in western Switzerland arrested Mrs. Nasser and the Zurich account was frozen.

Mrs. Nasser was extradited to the United States in 1995. A year later, she was sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined $4 million by a Miami federal judge for her part in smuggling 30 tons of cocaine and 3 million pounds of marijuana into the United States.

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