Ex-Swiss bank chief faces jail over embezzlement scandal
The former boss of one of Switzerland’s top banks was sentenced to three years and nine months in jail after being found guilty of multiple charges including embezzlement, fraud and forgery of documents.
Pierin Vincenz, ex-chief executive officer of Raiffeisen Switzerland, and bank consultant Beat Stocker were convicted for making unlawful gains during Vincenz’s 15-year tenure as CEO, a Zurich court ruled on Wednesday. Stocker was handed a four-year prison sentence, after being found guilty on a number of counts, including fraud, dishonest business management and documents forgery.
The conviction is a triumph for Zurich prosecutors in the high-profile trial which ran for weeks in a packed courtroom in Switzerland’s banking capital in January.
They had charged Vincenz with enriching himself and others through millions of dollars in side deals and illegal expenses including racking up a 201,267 Swiss-franc ($216,010) tab at a string of cabarets, strip clubs and “contact bars.”
Vincenz’s lawyer Lorenz Erni said the ruling is “wrong” and would be appealed, according to Tages-Anzeiger. Erni didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Bloomberg. Lawyers for Stocker weren’t identified by the court.
Although Raiffeisen isn’t listed and is sometimes confused with the Vienna-based Raiffeisen Bank International AG, the case and its tawdry details attracted wide attention locally because of the ubiquity of the institution’s brand in more than 800 towns and villages across Switzerland.
Vincenz and Stocker had been accused by Zurich prosecutors of together making unlawful gains of some 25 million Swiss francs. Vincenz alone illegally skimmed 8.4 million francs from deals he did during his 15 year tenure as CEO, prosecutors alleged in their 365-page indictment.
Beyond that charge, Vincenz had billed the bank for 560,709 francs in improper expenses that amounted to commercial fraud and misappropriation, said the prosecutors. Stocker obtained close to 16 million francs illegally and also ran up nearly 100,000 francs in unlawful expenses, prosecutors had said.
The bulk of Vincenz’s alleged gains, however, came from money he and Stocker misappropriated during acquisitions he oversaw during his tenure as CEO, say prosecutors. Vincenz led an expansion of the bank starting in 1999 aimed at bulking up its retail presence against larger rivals Credit Suisse Group AG and UBS Group AG.
That strategy succeeded, insofar as Raiffeisen was classified in 2014 by the Swiss central bank as ‘systemically important’ and therefore subject to tougher rules including a higher capital ratio. But a big part of the growth strategy was building stakes in companies which led to a concentration of top management roles and then rumblings in Swiss financial circles about possible conflicts of interest.
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