Former minister will not be investigated for ransom remarks

Moritz Leuenberger served in cabinet between 1995 and 2010. © Keystone / Peter Schneider

The Swiss federal prosecutor will not be authorised to conduct a criminal investigation into former minister Moritz Leuenberger, who said in a newspaper interview that Switzerland had paid ransoms when hostages were taken.

This content was published on April 29, 2021 - 13:56

A criminal investigation was “not compatible with national interests”, the government said on Wednesday. Conducting criminal proceedings in this matter would involve a detailed examination of the government’s strategy in kidnapping cases, it explained.

The government insisted once again that its official position was that Switzerland does not pay hostage ransoms.

Leuenberger, who served in cabinet between 1995 and 2010, told the NZZ am SonntagExternal link newspaper in February that “if a hostage has been released, a payment has probably been made”. The interview focused on the theme of lying in the political and personal sphere.

Following a political outcry, he rowed back on his remarks, blaming the newspaper for clumsy wording. But the Office of the Attorney General said it was considering a prosecution procedure and had asked the justice ministry for its advice on whether to open an investigation.

Leuenberger later said that no ransom payments had ever been decided in government during his term of office.

“But sometimes it can be assumed that something might have flowed through other channels,” he said. “Nevertheless, the government denies this. In my opinion that is a legitimate lie.”

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