Failed space flight firm was backed by ‘phantom bank’

Pascal Jaussi presents the Swiss Space Systems vision in 2013. Keystone / Sandro Campardo

The company Swiss Space Systems (S3) received financial backing from a fictitious bank as it unsuccessfully fought against bankruptcy, according to media reports. S3, which promised simulated space flights to the public, collapsed in 2017 amid much controversy.

This content was published on December 5, 2019 - 13:11
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The Tages Anzeiger and 24 Heures newspapers reported on Thursday that S3 was given fake guarantees of CHF30 million ($30 million) by the bogus Axios Credit Bank, which originated in Gambia and had addresses in other countries.

But researchers have concluded that the bank never existed as a real financial institution.

“We saw that the bank was hosted on a server where there were many other financial institutions, and that there were inconsistencies, for example between the name of a bank, which claimed to be Swiss, and its place of residence, New Zealand,” Steven Meyer, business intelligence specialist at Zen Data, told 24 Heures.

“As we dug further, we saw that Axios Credit Bank had only one employee, who had 53 contacts. This does not seem reasonable for a structure that can lend more than 30 million.”

The seemingly bogus entity appears to have fooled numerous financial backers and agencies, including the Swiss cantons of Vaud, which had extended a CHF500,000 line of credit to the firm.

Founded in 2013, S3 had intended to offer zero-gravity commercial flights for CHF2,950 on an Airbus A340-300 in 15 worldwide destinations. It had also planned to launch mini-satellites from a shuttle carried on the back of an airplane.

But it went into administration in January 2017, prompting numerous lawsuits amounting to well over CHF7 million. S3 founder Pascal Jaussi is also under investigation for allegedly engineering an attack on himself, which led to serious burn injuries. Jaussi denies the charges.

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