Swiss charge ex-Bank of America employee in Parmalat probe

ZURICH/MILAN (Reuters) – Switzerland’s attorney general has seized more than 30 million Swiss francs ($32 million) in a criminal investigation linked to dairy group Parmalat and has charged an unnamed Italian citizen with money-laundering, bribery and forgery.

The prosecutor said in a statement on Thursday the individual had been an advisor to Parmalat and a high-ranking employee at the Milan offices of Bank of America.

He is accused of laundering 85 million francs in Switzerland and in Liechtenstein between 2000 and 2004.

Parmalat collapsed in 2003 after the discovery of a 14 billion euro hole in its accounts.

At the time it was Europe’s biggest bankruptcy and its demise wiped out the savings of more than 100,000 small investors.

To recycle the money the accused used bank accounts in someone else’s name and shell companies, falsified banking documents and corrupted a bank official, the prosecutor said.

It said about 10 million Swiss francs had been seized in Switzerland and more than 20 million Swiss francs in Liechtenstein.

“This latter part should be returned to the Italian company,” it said.

Parmalat emerged from bankruptcy and returned to the Italian stock market in 2005 after a two-year reorganisation.

In 2011 it was taken over by French dairy company Lactalis in a 4.3 billion euro deal.

($1 = 0.9474 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by Katharina Bart and Stephen Jewkes, editing by David Evans)