June 5, 2020 / 11:07 AM / a month ago

Court upholds Swiss officer's graft conviction for Russia bear hunt

ZURICH (Reuters) - A Swiss court upheld on Friday the conviction of an ex-aide to Attorney General Michael Lauber for accepting gifts from Russian prosecutors, including a week-long bear hunt in Siberia’s Kamchatka peninsula, but imposed no penalty on him.

The Federal Criminal Court appellate division ruling against the federal police investigator is the latest headache for Lauber, who himself faces impeachment proceedings over what critics call his botched inquiry into corruption in world soccer.

The man, identified only as “Viktor K” given restrictions on reporting the names of defendants in Swiss criminal proceedings, worked for the federal police agency but was assigned to Lauber’s office. His language skills and Russian contacts made him an important channel between prosecutors.

But his superiors began to question his trips paid for by Russian authorities, including hotel stays and a week-long brown bear hunting trip in 2016 in Siberia worth at least 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,450), according to the indictment seen by Reuters.

Lauber’s office found itself in the position of having to file charges against the man from its own ranks.

Swiss media have published photos of the man, Lauber and other Swiss and Russian prosecutors on a yacht on Lake Baikal in 2014 during a conference in Russia.

Lauber testified at the trial last year when the suspect was convicted of accepting a benefit.

Lauber’s office said only that it took note of Friday’s verdict.

Defence attorney Dominic Nellen said his client was disappointed that he was not acquitted, but regarded the verdict as a partial victory given he was awarded three-quarters of his legal costs as compensation.

($1 = 0.9572 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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