SWTIZERLAND - Roland Rümmeli, the head of investments at Siemens Pensionskasse who was detained last month in connection with the Swissfirst affair, has been set free by authorities in Zurich.

Arno Thürig, Zurich's public prosecutor, told the local press that his office had released Rümmeli as there was no longer danger that he could impede the investigation of the Swissfirst affair. He made no further comment.

On the weekend of September 8, Rümmeli was arrested by Zurich's prosecutor while his house was thoroughly searched.

Upon hearing of his arrest, Siemens immediately suspended Rümmeli as head of investments at its CHF1.7bn (€1.1bn) Swiss pension fund. A spokesman for Siemens said that he had just learned of Rümmeli's release, adding that as far as he knew the suspension was still in effect.

According to the prosecutor, the grounds for Rümmeli's arrest was suspicion that he had accepted a bribe from Swissfirst in exchange for selling his pension fund's holding in the bank ahead of a merger in September 2005.

Shortly after the arrest, Thürig told IPE: "In the course of the investigation regarding Swissfirst we have found kickback payments." Swiss authorities did not quantify the payments, but they are believed to total several million Swiss francs.

According to Switzerland's Neue Zürcher Zeitung, which broke the Swissfirst affair in late July, Rümmeli had an account with German private bank Sal. Oppenheim that may have been used to conceal the as yet unproven kickback.

Swissfirst vehemently denies that it ever paid kickbacks.

Along with Siemens Pensionskasse, six other Swiss schemes - including one for pharmaceutical giant Roche and Publica, a €19bn federal employee scheme that is one of Switzerland's biggest - are under investigation owing to past links to Swissfirst.

All these funds dumped their shares in Swissfirst shortly before the September 2005 merger, and authorities are trying to establish whether they were involved in insider trading.

Thomas Matter, Swissfirst's former founder and chief executive, was forced to resign over the affair in August.