Life in Switzerland – one for the rich and one for the poor.

I couldn’t help noticing these two stories next to each other in the Swiss edition of The Local.

Switzerland is defined as a rich country but this is partly because it is happy to have this sort of person living here:

Former Novartis chief moved to Monaco: report
Published: 01 Nov 2015 21:38 GMT+01:00

The controversial former chairman and CEO of Novartis has moved to the tax haven Monaco, where he has purchased a luxury duplex apartment valued at around €24 million, a Swiss weekly says.

Daniel Vasella, 61, resigned in early 2013 from the Basel-based pharmaceutical giant amid an outcry over a 75-million-franc severance package — later cancelled — in return for a promise not to work for a competitor for six years.

It was later reported that Vasella, upset about the treatment he was getting from Swiss media and politicians, moved to the United States but SonntagsZeitung reported online that the multi-millionaire had instead quietly relocated to Monaco.

In the Mediterranean principality, free of tax on income and wealth, Vasella acquired a 268-square-metre with a pool on the terrace and wine cellar in a 22-storey building, the newspaper said.

The apartment enjoys a view of Monaco’s old town, the palace of Prince Albert II and the sea, according to the report.

It is located in a luxury building with a spa, indoor pool, gym, sauna and steam room.

SonntagsZeitung computed the value of the apartment based on property prices in Monaco, quoted by real estate agent Savills, of €91,000 per square metre.

It noted that the cost would be no problem for Vasella, who walked away from Novartis with a share package worth 220 million francs, in addition to options worth 105 million francs.

Since 2013, the native of Fribourg has also been receiving 250,000 francs a year from Novartis for advisory services, a sum he will continue to get until the end of 2016, regardless of whether he actually provides any services, SonntagsZeitung said.

Four years ago Vasella transferred ownership of his 700-square-metre villa in Risch in the canton of Zug to his three daughters to ward off a threatened inheritance tax initiative.

The lakefront property is next to four parcels of land formerly owned by a Novartis subsidiary that has passed into Vasella’s possession.

He acquired the land after a dispute in which he and Novartis could not agree on the price, a disagreement that was settled by the Zug cantonal court, SonntagsZeitung reported.

Neither Novartis nor Vasella have revealed the price but reports have put it between 30 million and 40 million francs.

Vasella has not revealed what he plans to do with the property.

It makes this story all the more abhorrent that it is placed next to this one:

Basel soccer fan ‘lost’ on Milan streets for decade
Published: 02 Nov 2015 09:09 GMT+01:00

A Basel football fan ended up living on the streets of Milan for ten years after losing his way while leaving the Italian city’s San Siro stadium, where he had been watching his team play Inter Milan, according to a Swiss media report.

Rolf Bantle, 71, returned to Switzerland earlier this year after he slipped on the sidewalk and broke his femur, prompting the Swiss consulate to arrange for his transport back to Basel, Schweiz am Sonntag said on Sunday.

Bantle , who had survived as a street person in Milan since 2004, was without health insurance, which apparently led Italian authorities to contact the consulate.

He was treated at the Basel University Hospital and is now living in a Basel retirement centre, where his astonishing story has come to light.

Bantle was reported missing after he failed to return to the bus that had transported him and his colleagues to the football game on August 24th 2004, Schweiz am Sonntag reported online.

The men were residents of a group home in Läufelfingen in the canton of Basel-Country who were on a day outing to see a Champions League qualifying game, the weekly said.

After going to the toilet in the stadium, Bantle became disoriented and could not find his colleagues, the newspaper said.

“I was suddenly in a different sector,” he is quoted as saying in an interview from the retirement home where he is now living.

With just €20 and 15 francs in his back pocket, without a mobile phone and without a telephone number for his group home, he ended up staying in Milan, living on the streets.

A search was launched for Bantle but he could not be traced.

Bantle explained that he survived by living rough and depending on the generosity of residents in the Baggio district of Milan, including students who gave him food and cigarettes.

One student “gave me a sleeping bag” so he could sleep outside without catching cold, while a woman offered to wash his clothes.

He took showers once a week in a public restroom and frequently visited the local library.

“There was for me no longer any reason to go home,” he told Schweiz am Sonntag, saying that he liked the freedom he lacked at the group home, where he had to follow rules and was placed under guardianship.

Bantle said he speaks some Italian because he had worked in construction jobs with Italian immigrants.

He grew up with his mother without knowing who his father was and was handed to a foster family at an early age.

Schweiz am Sonntag said he was currently without relatives and did not want to talk about his foster parents.

With limited education, he worked as a labourer but Bantle suffered from a drinking problem, which led him to being put in the group home.

“It’s nice here,” he told Schweiz am Sonntag of the retirement home where has been living since the summer.

He has a room in the home with expenses covered by the city of Basel, which include 100 francs’ pocket money per month.

“In the afternoon I go to the Denner (supermarket) and buy two cans of beer, which is allowed.”

Bantle said he doesn’t miss life in Milan now that he is in the Basel retirement home.

“Ten years is enough and here I feel very good now.”

Bantle’s life is as poignant as Vasella’s is repugnant. This is Switzerland for you. Children were taken from their parents and used and abused as unpaid labour until very recently when the horror of it was exposed and now some steps are being taken to amend the situation. But men like Vasella thrive here. FIFA has a true home here in Switzerland.

Ordinary Swiss people are told all the time that there is no money, cuts to the public service, to transport, to education are commonplace.

Health insurance is going up by a huge amount every year – my policy has gone up from 350CHF to 450CHF over 2 years. But at the same time this happens:

Geneva hospital probes massive lawyer fees
Published: 21 Sep 2015 22:19 GMT+02:00

The Geneva University hospital (HUG) has suspended a senior manager after revelations that the public facility paid a lawyer more than 40 million ($41.2 million) in fees.

A criminal investigation is under way into the payments made to the Geneva lawyer between 2007 and the beginning of the summer of 2015, broadcaster RTS reported on Monday.

The unidentified lawyer and the unnamed senior civil servant at the cantonal hospital have been charged with collusion and abuse of public trust through management, the state broadcaster said.

They were detained before being released last week while the investigation continues, according to the Tribune de Genève newspaper.

Officials at HUG reportedly became aware of the massive payments just a few months ago.

The lawyer was apparently retained to recover payments from the hospital’s debtors.

The investigations aims to determine why these fees were paid because the pay orders were not formalized in written documents, RTS said.

The investigation aims to establish responsibilities for the hefty payments, including at the top of the hierarchy of HUG.

The cantonal hospital and Mauro Poggia, the Geneva cabinet minister responsible for health care, have declined to comment on the affair.

I’ve been watching a relationship develop between HUG and a group at Geneva university trying to get a modest amount of funding to provide technology which will substantially improve the quality of communication between doctors and refugees.

It’s eye-opening to see where the money is all actually going.

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