Was former Swiss cabinet minister Kaspar Villiger aware that the Swiss firm Crypto AG was controlled by the CIA? Swiss media say newly released CIA documents support this claim, but the ex-defence minister vehemently denies it.
The CIA records are “not correct”, the former defence minister (1989-1995) told Swiss public television, SRF, in a statement published on Wednesday.
“Villiger knew who owned the company and felt he might be morally bound to disclose it… Evidently, Villiger had kept his mouth shut,” said the CIA document reportedly seen by both media outlets.
But the former cabinet minister, who was also finance minister (1996-2003), denies this account: "Whoever and whatever may be behind the CIA notes on me, they are not correct in this form, because I would have immediately been alarmed by detailed information about the situation.”
Fallout from the Crypto scandal, which hit the news headlines this week, continues to spread. On Tuesday, the Swiss government confirmed that it had opened an investigation into allegations that the Zug-based communications encryption firm was secretly owned and controlled by the CIA and West German intelligence services for decades.
The services jointly bought into the business in 1971, hiding behind the façade of a Liechtenstein-registered foundation, according to 280 pages of internal documents on the agencies’ intelligence operation that were reported on by the Washington Postexternal link, the German public broadcaster ZDFexternal link, and SRFexternal link this week.
Over the next decades, the intelligence services listened in on and read hundreds of thousands of messages between governments, embassies and military commands worldwide. The spying allegedly continued until at least 2018, and over 100 countries worldwide were targeted.
Within the Zug-based firm, it is unclear who knew what and when. SRF reported on Wednesday that the CIA documents mention the name of former Zug parliamentarian Georg Stucky, who was a Crypto AG board member from 1992 to 2016. According to the agency’s document, Stucky was informed about the espionage operation by the Crypto CEO.
However, Stucky, aged 89, says: “I have no recollection of such a thing."
The Crypto leaks scandal has triggered mixed reactions from Swiss politicians. However, most seem to agree that Switzerland needs to get to the bottom of the matter, and quickly. While politicians uniformly welcomed the commitment to a full investigation by the Swiss government, some are calling for a parliamentary commission of inquiry (PUK) if government involvement were proven.
On Thursday, Albert Heer, head of parliament's government oversight committee, told journalists that the panel would launch their own inquiry to find out what the Swiss authorities knew about the spying affair. A final report is expected by the end of June.