Tropical Gift – swissinfo

Life at the heart of the Nigerian oil industry – Photographer Christian Lutz’s unsettling photos, taken during three visits in 2009-2010, capture the contradictions and unequal power relations at play. Lutz won the 2011 Swiss Press Photo award for his shot of the New Year celebrations at the Lagos Yacht Club. (Simon Bradley, swissinfo.ch)
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Fiat boss crunches Ferrari

2006_ferrari_599gtbfiorano12.jpgFiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has survived a car crash in canton Solothurn unscathed, but the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano he was driving is a write-off. The former head of Swiss firms SGS and Lonza rear-ended another car on the A1 motorway according to reports in the Blick tabloid and the Aargauer Zeitung newspaper. Local police, following normal practice, refused to name anyone, only stating that one of the drivers was a 55-year-old living in tax haven Zug. The Ferrari was travelling at approximately 100 kilometres per hour. The police believe the car had to slow down because of a traffic jam. But despite emergency braking, Marchionne was unable to stop his vehicle in time. The top-line Ferrari, estimated to cost SFr317,000 ($275,000) was so badly damaged that it now only has scrap value. Fiat owns a majority stake in Ferrari.

Hamilton speeding to tax haven

canada_1_800.jpgBritish motor racing star Lewis Hamilton is set to join the growing number of Formula 1 drivers and other rich foreigners to settle in Switzerland– in the Geneva area according to Le Matin newspaper. The Mclaren driver says he wants to escape incessant attention at home, but he could also save millions in taxes. Hamilton has already been beaten to Switzerland by a host of other Formula 1 stars including current champion Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and former driver Michael Schumacher. Music stars and business giants also add to the 4,000 or so foreigners with special tax breaks. One international accountancy firm estimates that Hamilton could save £4 million (SFr9.67 million) a year on basic salary alone, based on projected earnings and British tax rates. But these breaks have been criticised as divisive and unfair on the Swiss, who must pay taxes on their full income. Earlier this year Economics Minister Doris Leuthard questioned why Swiss tennis champion Roger Federer must pay full taxes that some foreigners escape.

Hingis retires on a “high” note

Switzerland’s former world number one tennis player Martina Hingis has retired – for the second time – from sport at the ripe old age of 27. This time it’s not injury – or bad shoes – putting paid to her ambitions, but a positive drug test. If a Wimbledon drug check is to be believed (A and B samples were positive), Martina’s nostrils were whiter than the dress she had been wearing to play. The Swiss Miss strenuously denies snorting the sideline or taking cocaine and says she is innocent. She also claims she doesn’t want have a fight with the anti-doping authorities, which is why she is retiring. She probably would have been better off trying some grass: it might have got her past the third round at the All England Lawn Tennis Championship Meeting this year…

Swatch boss seeks creative prop from Clooney

arnold2.jpgSwatch chairman Nicolas G. Hayek says Hollywood star George Clooney will sit on the board of a new company that is to develop clean energy systems in Switzerland. Hayek, who will be chairman of the company, said he had hesitated between Clooney and former US vice-president Al Gore for a board seat but plumped for Clooney because of a possible Gore run for the White House (Gore seems to have ruled it out now he has pocketed the Nobel Peace Prize). Clooney is already tied to the Swatch Group as an ambassador for its Omega brand. He is also the face of Nespresso. Fribourg-based power company Groupe E is also involved in the clean energy project.

Singer vents his anger on tabloid

Swiss singer – or singing hairdresser – Piero Esteriore has tried to avenge himself of an article in the tabloid Blick that wasn’t to his taste (apparently the journalist wrote that his recent celebrity birthday party was more akin to a mafia funeral.) On Thursday, he crashed a Mercedes through the front door of the Zurich offices of the paper’s publisher, Ringier, before climbing out of the car and throwing signed copies of CDs on the ground, allegedly yelling that he would castrate the offensive reporter. After being arrested, he was released on Friday with no charges being pressed. Ringier said it was better to forget the whole sad business, although it believes that this kind of personal vendetta is way out of line. Esteriore is best known in Switzerland for being the finalist of the talent show MusicStar and a (badly) failed attempt to please punters at the 2004 Eurovision contest in Istanbul (Switzerland – null point) with what was considered to be a truly awful song.

So was he really that bad? You judge for yourself…