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European countries are increasingly pegging speeding fines to income as a way to punish wealthy scofflaws who would otherwise ignore tickets.

Advocates say a $290,000 (Euro203,180.83) speeding ticket slapped on a millionaire Ferrari driver in Switzerland was a fair and well-deserved example of the trend.

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Germany, France, Austria and the Nordic countries also issue punishments based on a person's wealth. In Germany the maximum fine can be as much as $16 million compared to only $1 million in Switzerland. Only Finland regularly hands out similarly hefty fine to speeding drivers, with the current record believed to be a euro170,000 (then about $190,000) ticket in 2004.

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The Swiss court appeared to set a world record when it levied the fine in November on a man identified in the Swiss media only as "Roland S". Judges in the eastern canton of St Gallen described him as a "traffic thug" in their verdict, which only recently came to light. "As far as we're concerned this is very good," Sabine Jurisch, a road safety campaigner with the Swiss group Road Cross.

She said rich drivers were lightly punished until Swiss voters approved a 2007 penal law overhaul that let judges hand down fines based on personal income and wealth for moderate misdemeanors including excessive speeding and drunk driving. Before, they had to assign relatively small fixed penalties or — rarely — a few days in prison. "It wasn't about making the punishment harsher or lighter, but more sensible," said an official at the Swiss justice ministry.

A millionaire motorist clocked up a record fine of 299,000 Swiss francs ($290,000) after Swiss police caught him racing through a village at 100 km per hour in his red Ferrari Testarossa, Swiss media reported on Thursday.

A court in the northeastern Swiss canton of St Gallen gave the millionaire the hefty penalty, which outstripped the previous record of 111,000 francs handed a Porsche driver in 2008 in Zurich, after a string of previous traffic offences.

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