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Victims of CHF800 million fraud scheme feel short-changed

Convicted fraudster Dieter Behring standing outside a Swiss courthouse during his trial in 2016. © Keystone / Ti-press / Pablo Gianinazzi

Administrators clearing up a CHF800 million ($877 million) collapsed pyramid scheme have managed to recover just CHF12.7 million from one of Switzerland’s largest fraud cases.

Financier Dieter Behring ripped off 1,700 investors between 1998 and 2004External link with a scam that promised oversized financial returns. Instead, it financed a lifestyle of luxury for Behring before collapsing.

In 2016, Behring was convicted of fraud and money launderingExternal link and was later ordered to pay back investors CHF207 millionExternal link, but he died before starting his prison sentence.

Since then, the authorities have attempted to recover funds for investors. But Swiss public broadcaster SRF reported on Saturday that only a fraction of the losses had been obtainedExternal link, with limited prospects of adding much to the assets.

The lawyer tasked with clearing up the bankrupt Behring estate confirmed that just CHF12.7 million had been recovered for the 736 creditors, who have filed claims amounting to CHF790 million.

“It would be nice if something else turns up, but it’s like finding a needle in a haystack,” she is quoted as saying.

The haul recovered so far has come in the shape of Behring’s property in Basel, a few paintings, jewellery, a camera and a watch. But this is well short of initial expectations that around CHF70 million could be recovered on behalf of victims.

The Swiss federal prosecutor has had little luck in accessing Behring’s assets abroad, reports SRF. Countries have either failed to answer requests for administrative assistance or have responded negatively.

Furthermore, the Swiss courts remain reluctant at present to distribute the funds that are available to claimants.

“I feel bitterness and despair at the wait,” said one of Behring’s victims who lost CHF1.8 million in the scam.

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About Swissinfo
SWI – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Since 1999, has fulfilled the federal government’s mandate to distribute information about Switzerland internationally, supplementing the online offerings of the radio and television stations of the SBC. Today, the international service is directed above all at an international audience interested in Switzerland, as well as at Swiss citizens living abroad.
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