(Bloomberg) -- A Saudi-Swiss businessman accused of faking a mandate from the late king of Saudi Arabia to perpetrate a $1.8 billion fraud lost his bid for a behind-closed-doors Swiss trial after prosecutors said he had nothing to fear.

During the first day of Tarek Obaid’s trial on Tuesday, his lawyer tried to argue that he couldn’t testify unless the court was closed to the public. 

Myriam Fehr-Alaoui cited a 2015 kidnapping attempt, but gave few details of what risks she thought Obaid faced from a public hearing. 

Swiss prosecutors accuse Obaid and his business partner Patrick Mahony of pretending to negotiate on behalf of the late King Abdullah, while claiming the rights to a Caspian Sea oil field that they never controlled, to hoodwink Malaysia’s economic development fund 1MDB into creating a joint venture from which the men took $1.8 billion. 

Presiding judge David Bouverat threw out the requests for a closed trial and a private hearing to explain the reasons, as well as a demand for his recusal for what Obaid’s lawyers say was his apparent bias. But Bouverat made one concession: that questions about Obaid’s personal status will be conducted behind closed doors. 

Minutes before his ruling, the federal prosecutor who brought the case against Obaid and Mahony, jumped on the defense’s request for privacy to zero in on the fraud at the heart of the case. 

“He couldn’t produce a diplomatic passport or even the simplest official mandate from the Saudi royal family because it was only a role he pretended to have,” said Alice de Chambrier. The federal prosecutor has won some notable victories in the past, including the first conviction of a Swiss bank in the country’s history against Credit Suisse in 2022. 

Many of the facts of the case being tried at Switzerland’s top criminal court in Bellinzona are already public, de Chambrier said. His indictment has been shared with journalists and any notion that his testimony in public might risk his safety was also nonsense, she added. 

“If Tarek Obaid was really worried about his physical safety,” she said, “he wouldn’t have been seen sitting on a terrace in Bellinzona, smoking a cigarette, as he did this morning.”  

Judge Bouverat accepted de Chambrier’s argument, citing more than a dozen other reasons for the trial to proceed in public including a clear public interest in the case and the need to uphold transparency in the implementation of Swiss justice. His decision should clear the way for Obaid and Mahony to testify next week. 

Laurent Baeriswyl, Mahony’s lawyer, said before the trial began that the prosecutors’ indictment is the result of a “totally biased and incomplete investigation” and that he “strongly contests the facts as they emerge from the indictment.” 

Fehr-Alaoui didn’t return requests for comment on the charges before the trial.

The defense had argued late into Tuesday evening that the indictment was one-sided, trying to poke holes in the case against their clients. Given an appeals court had already rejected their demand for Bouverat’s recusal, they also said they’ve taken that complaint to the European Court of Human Rights. 

The trial is scheduled to last four weeks if necessary. 

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