A Swiss financier who was once dubbed “banker of the year” apparently had a somewhat loose definition of what constituted a legitimate business expense.
Pierin Vincenz, 65, who went on trial on corruption and illegal trading charges with six others on Tuesday in Zurich, claims that strip clubs and the $4,500 in charges to repair a luxury hotel room—which he damaged during a tussle of an unknown nature with a stripper—were part of the daily grind, as it were.
Vincenz, who worked for the elite lender Raiffeisen Switzerland, is accused of pocketing millions of dollars through illegal trading and fraudulent deals. The former banker also claims that $217,675 worth of corporate expenses paid to strip clubs were legitimately business-related and a $760 dinner he treated a woman he met on Tinder was actually a job interview. Another expense item, listed at $30,000, went instead to pay for a private jet and cooking classes in Mallorca, local media report.
The titillating trial has garnered so much attention in Switzerland that the court decided to hold hearings in the Volkshaus Theater to accommodate spectators.
When asked by one of the presiding judges if he understood the charges, Vincenz tried to explain that sloppy accounting led to some of the expenses being inadvertently listed as business-related when they were personal in nature. He also seeks to tie many of the after-hours parties to legitimate daytime events for which he says he was representing his bosses. “With regard to [visits] to bars and nightclubs, I fully stand by that these were justified by business,” he said, according to Reuters. “There are individual invoices that appeared on the tab with regard to business trips, which [should have been] private, but on the whole these were justified by my business activity.”
One judge sought to clarify his stance. “Do I understand your claim correctly that, when you went alone to a cabaret, there were invariably businesspeople present and every invitation was made in Raifeissen’s business interest?” the judge asked, to which Vincenz replied, “I didn’t have the feeling I had done anything criminal here.”
Vincenz and his six other associates on trial—who all deny the charges—are being accused of enrichment, fraud, and mismanagement of company funds between 2006 and 2017. The men face up to six years in prison and may have to pay some $77 million in restitution if found guilty.