S Schmidheiny sentenced in emotional Italian asbestoes trial

Fiberglass death lands Schmidheiny involuntary manslaughter sentence

TORINO, ITALY -  Swiss business baron Stephan Schmidheiny and Belgian aristocrat Jean-Louis de Cartier were sentenced by a court in Torino, Italy 13 February after being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for their part in the deaths of some 2-3,000 Italian workers by asbestoes poisoning.

The pair, who were sentenced in absentia, were given 16 years each in prison for their roles as part owners and senior managers of the Eternit fiber company, but it is unlikely they will ever serve time. Their countries do not extradite their own citizens, the case with most countries. And their lawyers say they will appeal, a process likely to take years.

The company declared bankruptcy in 1986, closing the four factories in Italy covered by the court case.

The prosecutor has argued that the company failed to protect its workers and the areas around the plants.

Asbestoes production was banned in Italy in 1990, after links to cancer were shown and its use in buildings ended in most of Europe and North America.

The pair were also ordered by the judge to pay euros 80 million in  damages to 6,000 people, former workers and people who lived near the factories. The judge took three hours to read the sentence, with 1,500 people reported to be in attendance.

Schmidheiny is a member of the family behind the Swiss multinational Holcim cement company.