Switzerland orders son of Gaddafi’s oil chief to pay $1.5 million in bribery case

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A Swiss court ordered the son of former leader Muammar Gaddafi’s oil minister to pay $1.5 million in a corruption case on Friday, a decision that his lawyer said he may appeal.

The case involving Mohamed Ghanem, the CEO of a Bahrain-based Islamic investment bank and the son of Shokri Ghanem who drowned in mysterious circumstances in 2012, is a rare international case brought against the Gaddafi-era elite.

The Federal Criminal Court said in its judgment it found Ghanem “guilty of passive bribery of foreign public officials” without giving further details of the alleged incident.

The plaintiff in the case, Libya’s National Oil Corporation, had sought $1.5 million in compensation but the court dismissed it and instead ordered Ghanem pay that amount to the Swiss government. However, it ordered him to pay the NOC’s expenses, estimated at 50,000 Swiss francs.

Ghanem has denied the charges and his lawyer disputed the verdict.

“For me it is a judgment based on mistaken findings. And I consider this verdict to be unjust since there is no incident of corruption,” Ghanem’s lawyer Jean-Marc Carnicé told Reuters.

He added that he would discuss the decision with his client and consider an appeal. Ghanem, 44, is currently resident in Bahrain where he heads the First Energy Bank.

A lawyer for the NOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office said she was “satisfied” with the decision, adding that such convictions were rare.

Norwegian prosecutors in 2012 accused former executives of Norway-based fertiliser maker Yara of paying bribes to officials in India and Libya, including to the family of Shokri Ghanem. A source familiar with the Swiss case said this probe involved an alleged payment from Yara into Ghanem’s Swiss bank account.

Ghanem’s lawyer declined to comment on the details of the case.

Yara acknowledged paying unspecified bribes in 2014 and agreed to pay a fine. In 2016, a Norwegian appeals court upheld a guilty verdict against its chief legal officer but acquitted three other former executives of bribery. A Yara spokeswoman said that the court case was closed and declined further comment.