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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 June 2007, 03:56 GMT 04:56 UK
Verdict awaited in Swissair trial
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Berne

Swissair plane
Swissair's collapse was a shock for the whole country
Current and former executives of failed Swiss airline Swissair are set to learn their fate as the biggest corporate trial in the nation's history ends.

Verdicts are now due in the case, which has seen the airline's entire board face charges of mismanagement, fraud and false accounting.

Many of its former chief executive officers have also been on trial.

Swissair's 2001 bankruptcy shocked the Swiss, which had always seen it as a symbol of their country's efficiency.

In Switzerland it is being called the trial of the century, and such is the interest that Swiss television will devote four hours of live programming to the verdict being delivered.

Those in the dock were once the elite of Switzerland's business community - the managers and board members of Swissair.

The airline was loved by the Swiss people, who affectionately called it the Flying Bank because of its longstanding financial success.

But Swissair collapsed, bankrupt in 2001 and the 19 defendants are charged with mismanagement and fraud.

They face big fines and suspended prison sentences if convicted.

But they all maintain their innocence and lawyers observing the trial have suggested acquittals may be more likely than convictions because while turning Swissair's $3bn cash balance into multi-million dollar debts in just a few years may be very stupid, it isn't necessarily a crime.

Guilty or innocent, however, the collapse of Swissair caused serious damage to Switzerland's international image for business efficiency and to the trust the Swiss themselves have in their business leaders.

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