SWITZERLAND - The public prosecutor for the Swiss canton of Solothurn has scored a legal victory in its campaign against those whom it deems responsible for the collapse of the Vera/Pevos pension fund.
The prosecutor has now won an appeal and overturned a lower court's ruling, to insist three ex-managers, a former supervisor and two employees at Swiss auditor BDO Visura stand trial, having appealed a ruling through the high court of Solothurn last January.
In April 2004, Solothurn's prosecutor filed criminal charges against six people connected with the collapse of Vera/Pevos. But an administrative, or the lower, court for the city of Olten dismissed the prosecutor's charges last December and ruled they were not specific enough so the accused could not sufficiently defend themselves.
The high court has now reversed that decision, and a statement said: "The court (in Olten) acted improperly in dismissing the lawsuit. It must either send the charges back to the prosecutor for clarification or reach a decision on whether the accused are guilty or innocent," the high court said in a statement.
Vera/Pevos was liquidated in 1996, in one of the biggest Swiss pension fund collapses ever, after disastrous investments in local property created a CHF200m (€120m) deficit. To protect benefits for the scheme's 2000 insured, the canton of Solothurn was forced to provide a bailout worth CHF73m.
The accused have 30 days to appeal the high court's decision, but a lawyer for the group said such an appeal would have little chance of succeeding.
That said, the lawyer added he believes his clients stand a good chance of being vindicated in a trial both because of both the unspecific nature of the charges and the statute of limitations.
In Switzerland, the statute of limitations for lawsuits is normally 10 years, but it is unclear whether this applies at present as the prosecutor's charges were brought in 2004.