The foreign ministry has confirmed that Bern last year paid SFr1.5 million ($1.6 million) into a bank account in Germany. The aim was to build confidence with Libya.
The payment was made to Hannibal Gaddafi, a son of the Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, whose arrest in 2008 by Geneva authorities on charges of mistreating his servants at a luxury hotel in the city caused a crisis between the two countries.
A spokesman for the ministry said the payment was made as part of efforts to try to secure the release of Swiss businessman Max Göldi, who was held in a Libyan jail for four months on alleged visa irregularities.
Goldi’s arrest with another Swiss businessman in Libya was widely seen as retaliation by Tripoli for Hannibal’s detention.
The spokesman described the payment as compensation in the event that Geneva authorities could not discover who handed over mugshots of Hannibal that were subsequently published by the Tribune de Genève newspaper.
He said both sides had agreed the money should be used for humanitarian purposes. To the ministry’s knowledge and a few days before the outbreak of turmoil in Libya the money was still in the German account, he added.
Switzerland on February 24 blocked all assets in the country belonging to the Libyan leader, his family and entourage.
swissinfo.ch and agencies