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Former Swiss fund manager on trial for suspected US$800m fraud

[ZURICH] A former Swiss fund manager accused of cheating 2,000 investors out of an estimated 800 million Swiss francs (S$1.11 billion) went on trial on Monday, more than a decade after his investment empire collapsed.

Dieter Behring, 61, is accused of securities fraud and money laundering, with proceedings scheduled over the next five weeks at the Swiss Criminal Court in Bellinzona. Mr Behring has maintained his innocence throughout.

Mr Behring and several partners ran a trading system from Basel, Switzerland, that he said produced "above-average results" for investors before it collapsed in 2004.

He was arrested in October 2004, initiating what has become one of the Swiss Attorney General's longest-running investigations that finally led to an indictment late last year.

Mr Behring is accused by prosecutors of enriching himself with income "running into the three-digit millions" by promising rich returns to investors who ultimately wound up losing some 800 million francs, according to a description of proceedings by the Swiss Criminal Court.

He is also suspected of laundering the gains that he secured for himself, the court said.

Mr Behring, who was in Bellinzona for the trial, did not immediately respond to an email from Reuters seeking comment on his case.

On a website he has created to outline his arguments and share hundreds of related documents, however, Mr Behring said he had done nothing wrong.

"We regret the large losses of those damaged ... but we also have lost everything that we had built up in the previous decades," Mr Behring wrote, saying other people took the money after being consumed by what he called a "growing and insatiable greed".

The trial is due to last until July 1.