Public prosecutor’s office brings charges against ex-town clerk +++ Ralph Limoncelli says: “I have a clear conscience” +++ The parties concerned also express their views
After the criminal investigation is over, the public prosecutor’s office will bring charges against the former city clerk of the city of Frauenfeld for election fraud. This is expressed in a statement. He rejects any guilt: “It is inexplicable to me how charges can be brought on the basis of the facts.”
- There were irregularities in the Thurgau Grand Council elections in March 2020.
- After the intervention of the GLP, the state chancellery of the canton filed a complaint against unknown persons.
- The Thurgau Public Prosecutor opened a case and spoke of election fraud.
- The GLP subsequently received another seat in the Grand Council, which the SVP had to relinquish. The election fraud had taken advantage of them.
- Now the public prosecutor’s office has brought charges against the Frauenfeld town clerk, who had left his position earlier.
(pd/lex/seb./has) In connection with the general council elections on March 15, 2020 in the city of Frauenfeld, the criminal investigation opened by the Thurgau public prosecutor’s office on April 2, 2020 was concluded. Based on the findings of the investigation, the public prosecutor brought charges against the former town clerk of the city of Frauenfeld on March 24, as it wrote in a statement on Friday. The indictment took place at the District Court of Frauenfeld.
As it goes on in the message, the former city clerk is accused of qualified election fraud. “The public prosecutor’s office is applying for a conditionally enforceable prison sentence of 15 months and a fine of CHF 3,000.” This with a trial period of two years.
The accused denies the allegations. The presumption of innocence applies until the criminal proceedings have been finalized.
Ralph Limoncelli: “What kind of motive should I have?”
In a statement sent on Friday morning, the defendant expresses his view of things:
“I have a clear conscience, which is why I am calmly looking forward to the court proceedings.”
It was inexplicable to him how charges could be brought on the basis of the facts. And further: “It seems that for purely political reasons a person has to be dragged to court, for which the hurdle in Switzerland is apparently very low.”
In the statement he points out, for example, that he was active in Thurgau communities for more than 25 years. “Anyone who knows me well will not believe these false accusations.” He also asks what kind of motive he should have.
“My attorney and I are confident that the court will acquit me on all charges.” Until then, however, his good reputation is damaged. He does not want to comment further until the end of the proceedings.
The motive for the crime remains the big mystery for the time being
Attorney General Stefan Haffter is also confident, although Limoncelli denies the act. He is convinced that he has enough “meat on the bone” to face the prosecution. In terms of time, Haffter assumes that the first instance hearing will take place at the Frauenfeld district court by autumn of this year at the latest. From today’s perspective, the court hearing is public.
When it comes to the motive for the crime, for tactical reasons, the attorney general does not yet look into his cards: “I will only comment on this at the hearing,” he says in a certain tone. He’s the same with the classification of the sentencing. “This will also be the subject of the plea.” In the present case, the law provides for a minimum fine of 30 daily rates and a maximum of three years’ imprisonment. If the defendant was a person who did not have any official capacity in the act, the minimum penalty would be waived and a maximum of three years’ imprisonment could be imposed.
Not easy to determine
Almost a year has passed since the State Chancellery received the “Report against Unknown” on March 31, 2020 until the indictment was brought up on March 24, 2021. Haffter does not accept the often heard accusation that it took too long. On the contrary: in view of the case, the public prosecutor was even very quick. “The investigation was not easy,” he explains.
“You can’t just question witnesses, it’s detailed work.”
On April 2, 2020, the public prosecutor opened criminal proceedings against an unknown perpetrator after examining the complaint. While maintaining the protection of evidence, a recount had been carried out, initial investigations had been commissioned and initial interviews had been carried out. Finally, on June 12, 2020, the status was changed from “unknown” to “person known by name”: Ralph Limoncelli, the then Frauenfeld town clerk.
This is what the parties concerned say
Two parties were primarily affected by the election fraud: the SVP and the GLP. On March 15, 2020, the SVP received the seat that was assigned to the GLP on July 1. What do these parties say about the indictment?
Ueli Fisch, group leader of the GLP, wants to say something first as a private person who knows Ralph Limoncelli: “I just can’t imagine what his motive could be.” Then he changes his hat; as group leader he emphasized: “We are glad that the investigation has been concluded.” It is further evidence that the election fraud actually took place. He still has to hear – especially from SVP exponents – that this did not exist.
“Now we are excited to see what evidence will be presented in court.”
Politically, too, the chapter on electoral fraud is not yet closed, stresses Fisch: A motion by all parties calls for the adjustment of voting and electoral rights so that such a case is made impossible in future. The key words are: plausibility checks, “carefulness before speed”, recounts or increased controls in the electoral offices. The government has yet to respond.
Ruedi Zbinden presides over the SVP Thurgau. The attorney general confirmed earlier that no SVP member is in the focus of the investigation. “That was the great relief for us,” he looks back. He thinks it is right that the prosecution is now being brought: “We have always said that we want a complete investigation.” The question of guilt must now be clarified by the judiciary. “It is important to us that the process also runs smoothly in accordance with the rule of law.” Zbinden hopes that the legal review will also provide an answer to the question: How was that even possible?
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Election fraud public prosecutors office brings charges extown clerk Ralph Limoncelli clear conscience parties concerned speak