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The Swiss Ambassador, Luxembourg, and the CIA

Contributing Editor, 9 May 2005

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Today, Peter Friederich, the former Swiss ambassador to Luxembourg, goes on trial in Geneva on money laundering charges. He faces up to ten ...

Today, Peter Friederich, the former Swiss ambassador to Luxembourg, goes on trial in Geneva on money laundering charges. He faces up to ten years in prison if found guilty. Mr Friederich faces a series of charges including money laundering, but also belonging to a criminal organisation. He also faces charges of financial negligence, falsifying documents, damaging creditors’ interests, embezzlement and calculated fraud. Before Luxembourg, Mr Friederich also served as Swiss ambassador to Vietnam and Cuba. He was appointed ambassador to Luxembourg in December 1999. The Swiss investigation found that, during his time as a senior diplomat, Mr Friederich invested large amounts of money in the stock market on behalf of friends and associates. But the Swiss ambassador used much of this money to pay off his own debts and to pay for an expensive lifestyle. Things were going swimmingly well for Mr Friederich until major equity markets began to feel the heat from 2000 onwards. He lost, according to reports in the Swiss media, more than SFr5 million ($4.14 million) as a result of stock market falls. Mr Friederich was arrested in July 2002 after SFr2.37 million in cash deposits turned up in his private account in Luxembourg. He was held in custody for over a month after his arrest. The payments were made by Antonio Florido Sosa, known as "Radio Jaen", a Spanish citizen suspected by Spain of involvement in the drugs trade and money laundering. Mr Friederich said the money came from the sale of antiquarian books and pictures, but later said the money had been deposited into his account by a Spanish fiduciary trustee in order to evade taxes. The disgraced ambassador finally admitted that he lied about the origins of the money, but denied allegations of money laundering. What makes the case even more intriguing are reports in the French press that Mr Friederich has connections with the Central Intelligence Agency when he was ambassador in Vietnam and Cuba, where Switzerland represents the interests of the US. One report has said that: “The majority of diplomats in this situation—i.e. in charge of the interests of the US, are intelligence agents.” The report went on to say Mr Friederich’s role as an intelligence agent would be “economic” in its nature. “The parallel functions of the ambassador would have continued in Luxembourg, a money market that American services (such as the CIA) would use for certain discrete transactions.” Needless to say, the Swiss prosecutors are not following this line of inquiry. Instead, they claim Mr Friederich was given the money by Adriana Jaramilo Rendon, known as "la Señora", during a series of meetings in hotel car parks around Europe. Reports in the Swiss press say the pair met five times, starting in June 2001, and each time la Señora gave Friederich large amounts of used bank notes in various currencies. La Señora was an accomplice of Radio Jaen and Spanish police had been watching them for some time. The prosecution believes Mr Friederich earned $110,000 from a drug transaction, and they say he may even have offered to travel to Mexico to deliver $328,000 to a third party, who would in turn pay the money into a Columbian account. Mr Friederich’s defense lawyer was quoted as saying in the Swiss press that he knew nothing about any drug network or mafia business, pointing out that the final payment arrived in his account before the discovery of the cocaine shipment. The case is expected to go on for a number of months.

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