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Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK
Swissair faces criminal probe
Swissair plane
SAir will not comment on the criminal investigation
Swiss authorities have opened a criminal investigation into whether Swissair's parent company acted illegally in amassing losses of 2.9bn Swiss francs ($1.7bn) last year.

The Zurich district attorney said on Tuesday that the investigation was against "persons unknown" linked to SAirGroup.

The conglomerate last week revealed heavy losses, after a failed investment programme, which sent shares tumbling 29%.

In February, all but one member of the SAirGroup board resigned in what was described as a bid to restore confidence in the ailing company.

Accounting irregularities?

District Attorney Hanspeter Hirt said the investigation would look at whether investors had been misled by the company's "profit and loss account".

The legality of severance payments made to departing directors would also be investigated.

Philippe Bruggisser, former SAir chief executive
Bruggisser in happier times

SAirGroup refused to comment on the enquiry until after its annual general meeting on 25 April.

Mr Hirt also confirmed a private lawyer had lodged a complaint against the management of SAirGroup.

The complaint cited questionable business practices and providing false information about a commercial company, the daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung newspaper reported.

Management ousted

Chief Executive Philippe Bruggisser resigned in January after the board of the company put the brakes on his push for expansion.

Under the charge of Mr Bruggisser, SAir Group had been buying large stakes in loss-making regional and national carriers in an effort to become a leading European Airline.

Following Mr Bruggisser's resignation, the company said it would "make no further investments or acquisitions" in the airlines sector for the time being.

In early March, Swissair Chairman Moritz Suter also resigned after less than two months in the job, and one week later nine of the Group's board members said they will step down.

The only remaining board member is the Group's new chief executive, Mr Mario Corti.

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See also:

12 Mar 01 | Business
SAirGroup shares nosedive
23 Jan 01 | Business
Swissair chief steps down
22 Jan 01 | Business
Sabena rescue faces EU probe
24 Sep 00 | Business
BA turns spotlight on Swissair
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