The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Public excluded during questioning of the main defendant

The public will be excluded from the questioning on the personal circumstances of the main defendant in the 1MDB scandal before the Federal Criminal Court. This was decided by the Criminal Chamber at the request of the accused. However, the criminal division rejected his request to recuse the presiding judge.

The defense counsel for the main defendant requested the complete exclusion of the public without giving reasons. The federal prosecutor took on the task of enlightening those present. She dismissed the argument that the life of the Saudi-Swiss dual citizen was at risk with a few words.

According to the prosecutor, the case has been heavily covered in the media, so the allegations, facts and names are public knowledge. If he had been threatened, the accused would not have been seen smoking a cigarette on a terrace in Bellinzona that morning, she said.

By excluding the public - but not the journalists - the criminal division partially granted the defense lawyer's request. According to the court, the interest in a public trial and transparency precludes complete exclusion.

However, the risks cited by the defendant for himself and his relatives would allow him to comment on his personal circumstances in the absence of the public. In particular, his income and current assets may not be disclosed.

The defendant had testified that he had moved "in the highest circles" during the time of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and had been an advisor to the ruling family. After Abdullah's death in 2015, he had fallen out of favor, which could put his life in danger.

As far as Strasbourg

The second lawyer for the main defendant said that he would take this application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the recusal request against the presiding judge. He referred to the Sperisen case, in which a Geneva judge was declared biased by the Strasbourg Court.

The defense lawyer recalled that the judge had requested that his client be remanded in custody after he had left his home in Geneva. Judge David Bouverat justified this request on the grounds that the defendant was a flight risk.

According to the lawyer, the judge is also said to have spoken of a delaying strategy because the defendant had revoked his defense mandates. This would show that the presiding judge had already adopted the thesis of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and was therefore not in a position to conduct the proceedings impartially.

Both dual citizens

The defendants are 48 and 46 years old respectively. They are both dual nationals. The main defendant has a Saudi Arabian and a Swiss passport. The second defendant has a British passport as well as Swiss citizenship.

The main defendant is accused of fraudulent mismanagement, bribery of public officials, forgery of documents, qualified money laundering and misconduct in public office. His 46-year-old partner is facing the same charges, with the exception of forgery.

According to BA, the two men orchestrated a corporate construct through which US$1.8 billion was siphoned off to the detriment of the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). (Case SK.2023.24)

©Keystone/SDA

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