A Swiss billionaire who has repeatedly been accused of complicity and involuntary manslaughter in the exposure of thousands of people to asbestos and the risk of mesothelioma was sentenced to four years in prison by a jury in Turin, Italy. Stephan Schmidheiny is the scion and former majority shareholder in his family’s company, Eterit Genova, which used asbestos in its materials and plants and exposed both its workers and nearby residents to the toxic material.
Mesothelioma victims and others diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases have been fighting a battle for justice against Schmidheiny for over ten years, but the billionaire’s attorneys and the Italian Supreme Court have successfully thwarted them at every turn. According to prosecutor Gianfranco Colace, there is hope that this most recent decision is a “first step” that will lead to future verdicts against him for his and his company’s role in the deaths of countless people.
Schmidheiny originally faced similar charges in Switzerland, which were dropped. He was then sentenced to 16 years in prison by a court in Turin after being named as responsible for the deaths of roughly 3,000 people who lived close to his company’s building materials factories, but the Italian Supreme Court overturned that ruling, saying that the statute of limitations on those cases had expired. At the time, the court indicated that he could still be held to account in individual areas where his companies had operated, and the recent verdicts represent deaths in one of those areas.
Mesothelioma activists in the United States attempted to have Schmidheiny’s honorary degree from Yale University revoked after his family’s role in exposing people to the deadly carcinogen became public knowledge. For himself, Schmidheiny rejects the charges, indicating that he inherited the company before asbestos’ dangers were known, and that once the information became available he instituted safety measures and eventually sold the company entirely. The legal battles are expected to continue for several years.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, you know how corporate indifference to the dangers of asbestos has impacted your life. For information on your rights and the options available to you, contact us today at 1-800-966-2244.