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British Man Convicted In Geneva Money-Laundering Case

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

29 December 2003

78-year old British businessman Uri David was fined SF400,000 ($318,000) in a Geneva cantonal court for playing a part in the laundering of SFr800m by Nigerian president Sani Abacha. Israeli-born David also lost nearly $1 million in profits he made from playing a middle-man role in the laundering scheme. However, Mr. David escaped a 78-year old jail sentence because he co-operated fully with the investigation and was judged to have shown "sincere contrition".

Mr. David was found guilty of aggravated professional money laundering, forgery and support of a criminal organisation. Nigeria believes that Abacha, who died of a heart attack in 1998, siphoned off almost SFr4 billion, which he invested in Britain, Luxembourg, Jersey and Liechtenstein as well as Switzerland.

The bribes in which David was involved were paid by several international companies, including Ferrostaal of Germany and India's Tata, according to the Swiss sentencing order, obtained by the Financial Times, and were eventually deposited in a UBS account. About $86 million from the account, opened on the instruction of Mr. David, has been returned to Nigeria. David asserted that UBS knew the origin of the funds, but UBS strongly denies this: "This is plain wrong," said bank spokesman Christoph Meier. "On the contrary, the bank reported the relationship to the authorities because the client did not produce the documentation of identification we asked for."

The 78-year-old businessman and his company, Glenyork, made contributions to the British Labour party totalling at least GBP15,000 between 1997 and 1999, according to Labour party accounts. Mr. David, who lives in London, is a member of the United Jewish Israel Appeal, of which Lord Levy, Labour's chief fund-raiser, is one of three honorary presidents.

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