a) The prosecution based its charges on the fact that Stephan Schmidheiny was the “employer de facto” of the Italian company Eternit SpA, a public company with multiple shareholders. The fact is that Stephan Schmidheiny did not serve in an active role, neither as manager nor on the company’s Administrative Council.
b) By proceeding the way they did, the Turin judges condemned an individual shareholder of a company that had several local shareholders and executives, in a case that has been considered unique in criminal law worldwide.
c) The Turin judges condemned the shareholder based on a regulation that did not exist in 1986, when the company shut down. The regulation was enacted in 1992, but the courts applied it retroactively to Schmidheiny, who, once he suspected asbestos could pose a health risk for the workers, became a pioneer in its elimination as a raw material in his company’s manufacturing processes.
d) In 1976, Stephan Schmidheiny was 29 and assumed leadership of the Swiss Eternit Group. Under his management, the Italian company Eternit SpA made several investments in order to increase safety at the work stations, thereby protecting the workers’ health. These actions have been documented in detail by the defense and were not refuted at the trial.
e) During the Turin trial against Stephan Schmidheiny, due process was violated and access to a fair trial, as a fundamental right, was hindered. The results of the evidence presented were inexplicably ignored and the case was argued based on “presumed guilty.”
f) The defense had no access to the medical reports on which the charges were based, nor was not allowed to present studies that corresponded to the time between 1973 and 1986.
g) All the efforts made to preserve the environment between 1973 and 1986 were not taken into consideration during the trial, a clear denial of justice.
h) The bias against Schmidheiny with which the trial progressed was also noted in the fact that Eternit was the only company in Casale Monferrato being accused, even though there were another six companies that manufactured with asbestos.
i) Italy is the only country that expects to resolve the effects of asbestos via a continuous legal process against one individual. In most of the industrialized countries where asbestos has been banned, governments and industry have found ways to mitigate the social tragedy, those affected have been fairly compensated through joint programs, and asbestos has been safely eliminated.
j) From the beginning of the trial, objectivity and justice were put in doubt when the president of the Court of Appeals in Turin gave an exaggerated and partial example by putting Stephan Schmidheiny on the same level with Hitler, when he compared the Nazi extermination of Jews to the measures taken by Schmidheiny to protect his workers.
The trial and sentence in Turin were geared at the wrong person. Nobody was more cautious than Stephan Schmidheiny when it came to addressing the health risks related to processing asbestos. His decisiveness saved many lives. If the situation in and around Eternit’s old factories, with the numerous and unfortunate victims, is the historical legacy of the Italian industry in the production of cement with asbestos, it is impossible to solve that social tragedy with a criminal trial against one individual. Based on his own convictions and without admitting guilt, Stephan Schmidheiny has been helping the victims of the catastrophe for years. More than 1,500 people have accepted his proposed assistance. It is possible to expect that the Supreme Court of Rome, the highest court in Italy, will recognize Stephan Schmidheiny’s contribution as an industrial pioneer and philanthropist and absolve him of any charge or offense.