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1 Deja Vu: Stephan Schmidheiny in the Dock (June 15, 2021)

The case is being presided over by Dr Gianfranco Pezone, president of the criminal section of the court with Dr Manuela Massino, a Turin magistrate appointed as an associate judge; six citizen judges, aged 35 or older chosen from the electoral role, have been designated to act as a jury. Public Prosecutors Dr Maria Giovanna Compare and Dr Gianfranco Colace will be making the case against the defendant who will, once again, be defended by a large and well-resourced legal team.

2 Asbestos Profile: Italy (April 29, 2020)

The legal system in Italy, unlike those in the UK and US, allows Public Prosecutors to initiate proceedings against employers for failures to protect workers from hazardous exposures. On April 6, 2009, a preliminary hearing signalled the beginning of the “Great Asbestos Trial” [Eternit on Trial]. After scores of hearings on February 13, 2012, Eternit defendants Stephan Schmidheiny and Jean-Louis de Cartier de Marchienne, were convicted by a criminal court in Turin of causing permanent environmental disaster and failing to comply with safety rules as a result of which thousands of Italians died from asbestos-related diseases; they were sentenced to 16 years in prison and financial penalties of €90 million were imposed by the Court “jointly and severally” on them and the companies named in the lawsuit.

On June 3, 2012, the Turin Appeal Court upheld the landmark ruling and increased the prison sentence handed out to Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny from 16 to 18 years; the criminal case against Baron Louis de Cartier de Marchienne had been vacated due to his death [2013 Appeal Verdict in the Great Asbestos Trial].

On July 21, 2016, a ruling by Italy’s Constitutional Court approved a second round of legal proceedings (Eternit Bis) against Schmidheiny and the case was returned to the Turin court where accusations over the asbestos deaths of hundreds of Italians were to be investigated [Italy’s Hope and Glory].

On May 23, 2019, a Turin Court sentenced Schmidheiny in absentia to four years for the involuntary manslaughter of two individuals from Cavagnolo, both of whom died from asbestos-related diseases. Other trials were proceeding against the same defendant on hundreds of charges of voluntary homicide in Naples and Vercelli [

3 Stephan Schmidheiny in the Dock: Again! (January 28, 2020)

In May last year (2019), the entrepreneur was sentenced by a Turin Court to four years in jail on charges of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the asbestos deaths of an employee from the Cavagnolo (Turin) Eternit factory and a resident who lived near the plant. Commenting on that verdict, the President of the Association of Asbestos Victims and Family Members of Casale Monferrato (AFeVA) Giuliana Busto said: “It is a beginning, even if the road is still long.

Vowing to appeal, the defandant’s lawyers were scathing about the “scandalous” 2019 Turin judgment. Swiss supporters of Schmidheiny said he was “the scapegoat of the Italian state's inertia,” which “for decades failed to regulate the treatment and use of asbestos.” These arguments are shared by Schmidheiny who in December 2019 – breaking with years of media silence – told Swiss journalists Chanchal Biswas and Alain Zucker that the judicial actions against him were tantamount to “state torture” by a “failed state.

The first tranche of litigation, Eternit I, against the defendant saw him convicted on February 13, 2012 for causing a wilful permanent environmental disaster and failing to comply with safety regulations as a result of which thousands of workers and members of the public had died from asbestos-related diseases; he was sentenced to 16 years in jail.5 Upholding that judgment on June 3, 2013, the Turin Appeal Court increased the sentence to 18 years in prison for the environmental crimes committed. In 2014, however, Italy’s Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) vacated the verdict on technical grounds: the environmental crimes were time-barred. In 2015, Public Prosecutors in Turin again filed charges, this time for “premeditated killing.” There is no statute of limitation for this or other crimes which result in death: e.g. “omicidio colposo” (manslaughter). The proceedings were divided and sent to courts in Novara, Turin, Reggio Emilia and Naples.

4 Eternit’s Global Asbestos Crimes (June 6, 2019)

Attempts to hold executives of the Belgian and Swiss Eternit Asbestos Groups personally accountable for thousands of asbestos-related deaths in Italy have come and gone throughout the 21st century, with a 16-year prison sentence issued by the Turin Court in 2012 to Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny being overturned by the Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) in 2014 on a technicality.5 A 2019 paper entitled: How to Judge Safety Crime: Lessons from the Eternit Asbestos Maxi-Trials by Pascal Marichalar examined loopholes exploited by defence lawyers to prevent criminal prosecutions succeeding, including: the practice of collective corporate decision-making; the difficulty in establishing links between industrial hazard and responsibility or intention; the need to prove causation for each victim on an individual rather than a statistical basis.

5 Eternit asbestos billionaire sentenced to prison by Turin court. May 23, 2019.

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/toxic-substance-_eternit-asbestos-billionaire-sentenced-to-prison-by-turin-court/44984134

5 Italian Asbestos Deaths: New Conviction (May 24, 2019)

Five years after the Italian Supreme Court had vacated guilty verdicts against the Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny on technical grounds (2014), the defendant has once again been convicted of the asbestos deaths of Italian citizens.1 Shortly after mid-day on May 23, 2019, a Turin Court sentenced 71-year old Schmidheiny, the former majority shareholder in the Italian Eternit asbestos company, in absentia to four years for the involuntary manslaughter of two individuals from Cavagnolo, both of whom died from asbestos-related diseases; one of the deceased was a former Eternit employee who succumbed to asbestosis while the other was a woman who lived in the area near the company’s Cavagnolo factory and died from lung cancer.2 Public Prosecutor Prosecutor Gianfranco Colace had sought a seven year prison sentence, the maximum allowable.

3 Eternit asbestos billionaire sentenced to prison by Turin court. May 23, 2019.

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/toxic-substance-_eternit-asbestos-billionaire-sentenced-to-prison-by-turin-court/44984134

6 Italy’s Hope and Glory (August 3, 2016)

In 2014 Italy’s Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) had overturned on technical grounds a 2012 conviction which had sentenced Schmidheiny (former owner of the Swiss Eternit asbestos group) to 18 years in jail for negligence and wilful disaster as a result of which thousands of workers and members of the public had died. Even as the Supreme Court had been deliberating its decision in the final appeal of that case, Public Prosecutors had begun investigating grounds for bringing another case against Schmidheiny; one in which he could be accused of murder. Schmidheiny’s legal team claimed that the new case was void under the legal principle of double jeopardy – a person could not be tried twice for the same crime. The investigating magistrate asked for guidance on this issue from the Constitutional Court which heard the case on May 31, 2016. Referencing a number of rulings by the European Court of Human Rights, it rejected arguments submitted by Schmidheiny’s defense team explaining that were one not to consider the claims of these victims, future claimants would also be denied their rights.3 Commenting on the import of this verdict, former Turin Public Prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello, who pioneered the litigation against Schmidheiny, said: “this ruling will rekindle the faith in justice in Italy and in the world.”

The murder case has now been returned to the Turin court of investigating magistrate Federica Bompieri who had in July 2015 asked the Constitutional Court to rule on whether or not the Schmidheiny indictment on 258 murder charges could proceed. Bompieri could make important pre-trial rulings or refer the case to the Court of Assizes after the trial.

“if the GUP [investigating magistrate] agrees to hold hearings on the extensive evidence and rule on whether the charges can be reduced from murder to manslaughter… then some cases might be excluded on grounds of statute of limitations, and the jurisdiction of the court might be removed to a more rural district from Turin. On the other hand, the GUP could simply turn the case over to the Court of Assizes in Turin, which would then hear all the evidence and decide at the end of the trial whether to convict SS [Schmidheiny] for murder or manslaughter.

7 Global Asbestos Hegemony; Global Asbestos Crimes (February 14, 2016)

Schmidheiny has, indeed, already been tried three times for Italian asbestos crimes; he was convicted by the Turin Court (2012) and the Appeal Court (2013) of causing a permanent environmental disaster as a result of which 3,000+ Italians died. These verdicts were overturned by the Italian Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) in November 2014 due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.

In the wake of that reversal, Turin Public Prosecutors Raffaele Guariniello and Gianfranco Colace accused Schmidheiny of the manslaughter of hundreds of other Italians; there is no statute of limitation for this crime.

8 LKA Blog (January 26, 2016)

Their actions succeeded in attracting the attention of the Turin public prosecutor who spent over a decade investigating their claims before initiating a lawsuit on their behalf. Every facet of this story deserves to be told.

9 LKA Blog (October 7, 2015)

Despite the known threat posed by the asbestos hazard, contaminated products continue to subvert national and regional asbestos bans. Last week, it was announced that Turin public prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello was investigating the discovery that more than 8,600 cars purchased in Italy from China’s Great Wall Motors were contaminated with asbestos-containing components; indictments are expected shortly against two Italian businessmen.1 In February this year (2015), the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service admitted it was unable to guarantee that imported Chinese goods were asbestos-free.2 Asbestos-contaminated imports from China have included plasterboard — a disaster for plasterers — gaskets, trains, mining equipment and vehicles.

10 Italian Asbestos Verdict Due on Friday! (July 20, 2015)

On Friday, July 24, 2015, Judge Federica Bompieri will hand down a momentous decision in a court in Turin, Italy. She will decide whether to comply with a request from the Turin Public Prosecutors Raffaele Guariniello and Gianfranco Colace for a new criminal trial against asbestos billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny.

This morning, Judge Federica Bompieri informed the Turin court that she had suspended her decision regarding the charges against defendant Stephan Schmidheiny pending a ruling by Italy’s Constitutional Court on the issue of “double jeopardy.” Placing the matter in the hands of the higher court, the preliminary hearing judge cited article 649 of the criminal proceeding code which differentiates between “historical” and “juridical” facts.

 
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