The Swiss attorney general’s office has instructed federal police to investigate a high-ranking Swiss diplomat over corruption allegations in Kenya.
The investigation into Jacques Pitteloud, a career Swiss diplomat who now heads the Swiss foreign ministry’s directorate for securing and managing resources, stems from allegations during his stint as Swiss ambassador to Kenya from 2010 to 2015.
Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General authorised the Federal Department of Justice and Police, known as Fedpol, to investigate whether Pitteloud used “coercion” in an alleged bribery scheme in Nairobi, Swiss media outlets reported on Saturday.
Pitteloud, who joined the Swiss foreign ministry in 1988 and holds a law degree from the University of Zurich, has led an intriguing and high-profile life as a Swiss diplomat.
He did not respond to an emailed request for comment on Saturday.
Headed security services
A former head of Switzerland's security services, he was ex-Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey’s go-to man sent on a secret mission in 2008 to handle the so-called "Libyan dossier". Newspaper accounts describe him as a chain-smoking, martial arts-trained James Bond-like figure.
Pitteloud was sent to Tripoli to handle the diplomatic fallout over the arrest in Geneva in July 2008 of Hannibal Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader, and his wife. The Gaddafi couple were held for allegedly physically mistreating two of their servants, prompting the Libyans to detain two Swiss nationals.
Two years later, Pitteloud began serving as head of the diplomatic mission in Nairobi, where he did not shy from publicity. In his first year there, he was quite active on Twitter, until a change in government policy:
Before leaving that post after five years, he gave several TV interviews, including this summary in July 2015 of his time in Kenya:
The investigation into Pitteloud is a response to a complaint filed against him by two Kenyans who themselves are under investigation for money laundering in Switzerland and Kenya.
The two men claim the Swiss diplomat tried to bribe them by demanding CHF50 million ($51.5 million) to have the investigation dropped in Switzerland, according to Swiss media outlets.
In May 2015, the men filed a complaint with Swiss authorities. The Federal Criminal Court, in Bellinzona, agreed to hear their appeal on grounds of alleged coercion.