Swiss court convicts German financier Homm in long-running fraud case

ZURICH, April 23 (Reuters) - German financier Florian Homm was convicted by a Swiss court on Friday of breach of trust and multiple forgery of documents in a fraud case that had led to millions of dollars in losses for investors.

The 61-year-old former hedge fund manager was convicted in absentia and sentenced to 36 months in jail, of which half was suspended, the court said.

Authorities had accused Homm of orchestrating a market manipulation scheme to artificially improve the performance of his funds, a fraud that led to at least $170 million in losses for investors.

Homm disappeared in 2007 from his luxury villa on the Spanish island of Majorca after, according to U.S. authorities, dumping tens of millions of dollars’ worth of his own shares in his company Absolute Capital Management Holdings Ltd and causing huge losses to investors.

He was caught in Italy in 2013 after Italian police, acting on an FBI tip, followed Homm’s former wife and son to the Uffizi museum in Florence, where they met up with him. He is now believed to be living in Germany.

Homm, a cigar smoker nicknamed “Steamroller” who stands 6 feet, 7 inches (2.01 meters) tall, had become something of a celebrity in his native Germany, both as a symbol of greed and for saving the soccer team Borussia Dortmund from bankruptcy. Some of his business was based in Switzerland.

In announcing the verdict, Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court said on Friday the fact that the offences occurred long ago and the proceedings took a long time “resulted in a considerable reduction of the sentence”.

The court handed Homm a fine of 120,000 Swiss francs ($131,047), but that was also suspended.

Charges of commercial fraud, unfaithful management and embezzlement were dropped, the court said, noting these alleged offences were committed in the United States and the statute of limitations had expired.

Homm’s lawyer could not immediately be reached by either phone or email for comment.

$1 = 0.9157 Swiss francs Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Susan Fenton