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Austria rejects Swiss spying allegations

Austria has rebuffed allegations by Switzerland that customs officers have been involved in illegal information-gathering activities to crack down on smugglers.

This content was published on March 27, 2000 - 07:47

Austria has rebuffed allegations by Switzerland that customs officers have been involved in illegal information-gathering activities to crack down on smugglers.

The authorities in the Austrian province of Vorarlberg which borders eastern Switzerland said they uncovered a series of butter and meat smuggling operations which originated in Switzerland. As part of the crackdown they questioned suspects at border posts in Sankt Margrethen and Buchs. "Asking suspects to come to Austrian border posts for questioning in the presence of lawyers is not in breach of international law", a statement from Feldkirch said.

The authorities also denied reports that Austrian customs officials paid Swiss agents for information on smuggling rings. They said in particular, that it knew of no case of illegal trade in arms.

The Swiss Police Ministry on Sunday confirmed a newspaper report that investigations were underway against several Austrian customs officials suspected of illegal information gathering.

Switzerland is anxious to increase police co-operation with Austria and its other neighbours. Parliament is debating an accord aimed at increasing the exchange of information to prevent organised crime and illegal immigration.

swissinfo with agencies

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