Swiss politician accused of fast-tracking citizenship for ineligible friend
A politician from Geneva has been accused of helping a friend gain Swiss citizenship, despite him being ineligible for naturalisation. Former State Councillor Pierre Maudet allegedly used his connections within the State Secretariat for Migration to fast-track and manipulate his friend's application for citizenship, and was rewarded with champagne-soaked trips to the Middle East as a thank you.
Pierre Maudet accused of granting favours to friends
According to a report by the Tages-Anzeiger, the man in question, a banker from Lebanon, had held a Swiss residence permit and lived in Geneva for several years - the time when he met and befriended Maudet. After a spell living abroad, the man returned with his family to live in Canton Schwyz and announced his intention to apply for citizenship in Geneva.
However, the two cantonal employees that were tasked with handling his application said that the man could not apply for citizenship as he did not fulfil the residency requirements. They were concerned that the man had not returned to the country for long enough to apply.
This did not impress Maudet, who had the Director General of the Geneva Population Office write a comprehensive report about his application, which he then presented to the man on a trip to Dubai - the same trip for which Maudet was originally indicted for accepting bribes from the Abu Dhabi royal family. Despite being acquitted by the Federal Supreme Court, the incident is one of the reasons why Maudet is no longer a State Councillor.
Genevan officials offered to shorten Swiss residency requirements
After several meetings between the banker and Maudet, a staff member working for Maudet offered to explain “a number of techniques to him on the phone" which they could use to shorten the residency requirements for citizenship. Another email explained how they would be able to “turn back time” to let the banker apply for citizenship early.
“You always have such good news for me!! (It is precisely for this reason that I always turn to you!)”, the banker wrote to Maudet’s employee after the final terms of the agreement were reached. According to RTS, his naturalisation began in October 2016 and he received his citizenship on March 15, 2017 - typically, it can take up to three years to process and approve citizenship applications.
In exchange for his efforts, the banker used his connections to organise another trip to the UAE in November 2015 for Maudet and his entourage which included, according to Maudet’s chief of staff, "hotel, swimming pool, cigars and Formula 1 Grand Prix". "I have very fond memories of our evening in Abu Dhabi at the end of November, especially the tuna dish," Maudet wrote to the banker afterwards - he was also invited to a naturalisation dinner to celebrate the man’s successful application.
Swiss citizenship scandal raises a number of questions
Needless to say, the case raises a number of questions: How was the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) able to approve a citizenship application in half a year and how was Maudet able to give a “green light” for naturalisation?
Maudet, having resigned as a government figure in 2020, told the Tages-Anzeiger that he could not comment as “individual naturalisation dossiers are subject to official secrecy.” Responding to the newspaper, the SEM said they could not “provide any information on individual cases."
Finally, the lawyer of the banker in question wrote to the Tages-Anzeiger, stating that "my client is not aware of any direct or indirect support measures from Mr Maudet in connection with his Swiss naturalisation, nor has he ever given him a corresponding order or promised or granted him any consideration."