Committee wants government to revamp intelligence service

A parliamentary committee investigating a massive fraud case in the Defence Ministry, recommended on Wednesday that the government reorganise military intelligence because the case highlighted the service’s vulnerability.

This content was published on December 1, 1999 - 12:16

A parliamentary committee investigating a massive fraud case in the Defence Ministry, recommended on Wednesday that the government reorganise military intelligence because the case highlighted the service’s vulnerability.

Intelligence officer and military accountant Dino Bellasi is accused of having stolen SFr8.8 ($5.6 million) from defence ministry funds. The Ways and Means Committee said in its report that the case was clearly one of fraud, and not an intelligence scandal.

But the Bellasi affair has raised alarming questions about the management of the intelligence unit and its professionalism, according to the committee.

“Indeed, a relatively banal fraud case was enough to at least temporarily destabilise military intelligence and bring down its leadership,” the parliamentarians said in their report, recommending that the unit abandon its military past and become a fully-fledged civilian operation.

The report says the intelligence unit has not come to grips yet with the fact that it is working in a post-Cold War world. And the document in many ways points the finger at the government for not showing enough leadership in this transition period.

After a review of its security policy, the government decided in April to appoint a civilian intelligence coordinator to implement the reforms considered necessary.

Bellasi first accused his superior, intelligence chief Peter Regli, of ordering him to secretly siphon off the money to finance the formation of a shadow unit. Bellasi later retracted those accusations against Regli, who was suspended from his job and allocated to archive administration work.

The parliamentary committee accuses Regli and his team of serious mismanagement and of being responsible for a serious decline in work morale.

“The biggest damage done to military intelligence is the loss of confidence in Switzerland and among foreign services,” the report says.

The document also clears Regli of allegations that his service helped set up a secret biological and chemical weapons programme in South Africa.

The Bellasi case, and the alleged South African connection, made the headlines for months and led to public debates in Switzerland about the professionalism, efficiency and role of military intelligence.

Swiss Defence Minister Adolf Ogi came under intense political pressure over the Bellasi affair. His ministry probed the case independently and the minister is to present his findings and decisions on Thursday.

Bellasi, 39, is accused of fraud, embezzlement, falsification of documents, money laundering and slander.

From staff and wire reports.

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