By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) – A Belgian lawyer appeared in a Geneva court on Monday accused of money-laundering and falsifying documents in a case involving Belgium’s richest family, who say she swindled missing shares in brewer InBev worth some $60 million (£46.77 million) today.
The woman, who denies the charges, was convicted in 2016 by a Luxembourg court for attempted fraud in a linked case involving the 2005 testament of the late heiress Amicie de Spoelberch, widow of Luka Bailo, but the missing shares were not found.
The couple’s Geneva-based sons, Patrice and Alexis Bailo de Spoelberch, brought a fresh case, accusing her of being behind the disappearance of 815,000 bearer shares in InBrew, now InBev <ABI.BR>, from a Luxembourg bank in 2004.
“She already deceived the Luxembourg justice system, there is no way she is going to deceive Geneva too,” prosecutor Niki Casonato told the court in opening remarks. Patrice Bailo attended the trial, while his brother was excused by a medical certificate invoking mental instability.
“Her criminal activity stretched over 10 years, with numerous transfers, opening and closing of accounts and setting up of offshore companies,” Casanato said.
The prosecutor’s indictment accuses the lawyer of depositing illicitly obtained shares at leading Geneva private banks and transferring funds to offshore companies, including in Singapore.
The 57-year-old defendant, who cannot be identified under Geneva tribunal rules, said that the funds were for her legal work for the Bailo de Spoelberch family. Her lawyers argued that she was unfairly being tried in the same case, but the tribunal said the charge of money-laundering was new.
She was sentenced in the 2016 Luxembourg case to 24 months in jail, with 15 months of the sentence suspended.
Arrested again while on her sailboat in 2017 in Greece, she was interned there in conditions she said were similar to the 1978 prison movie “Midnight Express”, before agreeing to extradition to Geneva.
“This is the fourth time I am being attacked for a dossier in which I helped the Bailo brothers,” she said.
She said that she “confirmed the legitimacy of my own patrimony”, worth an estimated 25 million euros ($27.6 million)that has been confiscated.
The trial continues until Wednesday.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alex Richardson)