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Justice Swiss Space Systems founder accused of ‘staging’ own attack

Pascal Jaussi, director of Swiss Space Systems (S3), stands next to a model of his project to launch space satellites from the back of an aeroplane

(Keystone)

Criminal proceedings have been opened against Pascal Jaussi, the founder and chief executive officer of the recently bankrupt company Swiss Space System Holdings (S3). He is accused of lying to the justice authorities over the abduction and brutal attack he allegedly sustained last August.

On Tuesday, the Fribourg public prosecutor’s office announced that it had opened criminal proceedings against Jaussi, the CEO and founder of the Vaud-based S3external link, for misleading the justice authorities, intentional arson and forgery. Jaussi denies the charges.

Last year, an investigation was launched after the CEO was found badly injured on August 26 close to his car in a wooded area near Aumont, canton Fribourg. He claimed that he had been abducted and set on fire.

Jaussi reportedly said he had spotted one of his attackers earlier that morning in front of his office and with another person in the afternoon. The businessman said he had tried to follow them in his car, however, one of the unknown individuals had allegedly tried to enter his vehicle and had forced him to drive to a forest near Aumont. According to Jaussi, he was sprayed with petrol and both he and his car were set on fire.

On August 26, the police found Jaussi in the forest with burns to his throat and face, and cuts on his neck. His vehicle was also burned out. The S3 director was flown by helicopter to Lausanne’s University Hospital (CHUV), where he was cared for until September 6.

'Threats'

Jaussi had gone on record as saying that his company’s mission was not appreciated by some space industry competitors. In September, the 40-year-old entrepreneur released a press statement claiming he and his company had been the victims of “threats, sabotage and menacing phone calls” in the weeks leading up to the brutal attack.

The company said it had turned all the phone recordings and documents pertaining to the threats over to the police.

Into orbit The space shuttle made in Switzerland

A company led by Swiss engineer Pascal Jaussi is building a space shuttle by combining technologies from all over the world. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) ...

The Fribourg prosecutor’s office said Jaussi was interviewed three times by the police and consistently defended his version of events. He was later ‘presented with evidence collected at the sites, searches to his mobile phone and conclusions from forensic investigators and a reconstruction of the fire’, the statement said, adding that these elements add up to a ‘staging’ of events.

Jaussi is also accused forging documents linked to the bankruptcy of S3, which was officially confirmed on January 16. The police are continuing their probe into the attack and financial matters. Some 40 people have been questioned.

On Tuesday the businessman told the Swiss News Agency that he rejected the prosecutor’s arguments and said he was confident that the criminal investigation would prove his total innocence.

Zero-gravity and satellites

S3, which is based in Payerne, had planned to offer zero-gravity commercial flights on an Airbus A340-300 in 15 worldwide destinations and wanted to launch mini-satellites from a shuttle carried on the back of an airplane.

In September, Jaussi declared that his company was in financial trouble, but said that more money was forthcoming to help ameliorate the problem and denied media reports that S3 was being investigated for money laundering. Finally, in November, it was reported that the company was being forced to refund prospective clients some CHF160,000 following repeated delays to the planned services.

S3 is currently the target of numerous lawsuits amounting to well over CHF7 million, with a significant proportion concerning the unpaid salaries of former employees. Canton Vaud is also a creditor, as it provided the company with a CHF500,000 loan.

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