Police chief sentenced for Turkish ‘rock’ theft

Police chief sentenced for Turkish 'rock' theft
Christian Varone: now considering his options. Photo: RTS
A Turkish court on Tuesday sentenced Christian Varone, chief of the Valais cantonal police force, to a suspended jail term of one year and 15 days for stealing a cultural artefact from Turkey while on holiday.

The suspended sentence from the court in Antalya means Varone would only be liable to spend time in prison if he re-offends in Turkey, the ATS news service reported.

He was also fined the equivalent of 260 francs.

The sentence comes after Valais’s top policeman was found guilty of stealing a fragment of marble in July after it was discovered in his luggage at the Antalya airport as he was preparing to leave the country.

Varone maintained it was an innocent mistake, calling the "rock" a simple holiday souvenir.

But the Turkish authorities, who vigilantly guard their archeological treasures, would have nothing of it.

A report concluded that the marble was part of a column dating from Roman times.

Varone spent several days in prison after initially being arrested in Turkey on July 27th 2012.

He later took a leave of absence from his police job on November 23th in order to run for a seat in the Valais cantonal government.

Although he won the nomination for the Liberal Radical party, he bowed out of the race earlier this month after a poor showing in the first round of voting, with the Turkish scandal handicapping his chances.

In the second round of voting at the weekend, his party failed to win a seat in the cabinet.

The policeman told Le Matin that he would decide between now and April 1st whether to remain head of the force.

The Turkish conviction may make it difficult for him to keep the post.

Le Nouvelliste online, based in Valais, said Varone was taking several days to consider “diverse professional opportunities”.

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