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Controversy Government looks into Pilatus Saudi contract

Pilatus in Stans

Pilatus is located in Stans


The foreign ministry says it is examining a controversial contract signed by Swiss aircraft manufacturer Pilatus in Saudi Arabia. The company is reported to have not told the department that it was providing logistic support to Saudi forces.

This could be a potential infraction of federal law.

In 2017 Pilatusexternal link concluded maintenance contract for the fleet of PC-21 owned by the Saudi air force. The arrangement extended over five years and applied to the 55 planes stationed at Riyadh, the Pilatus annual report for 2017external link says.

But the firm had not informed the foreign ministryexternal link of this development, as it is obliged to under law on private security work undertaken abroad, Swiss media reported on Friday. The ministry only became aware of Pilatus’s activities in Saudi Arabia recently and “on the basis of its own research”, it confirmed to the Swiss News Agency.

According to the ministry, the services offered under the contract can be counted as logistic support for the Saudi armed forces. According to its information, no training services were included. The ministry is in the process of finding out more and has started an enquiry into the matter.

Pilatus did not wish to communicate its side of the story to the Swiss News Agency. The company said it will share its position at a later stage.

What the law says

The Federal Act on Private Security Services Provided Abroadexternal link, which came into force in 2015, obliges companies operating from Switzerland to declare private security service work abroad to the foreign affairs ministry.

Companies operating out of Switzerland are prohibited from engaging in any activities conducted for purposes of direct participation in hostilities abroad. Also banned is the provision of services which may lead to serious human rights violations. 

The ministry says it received 450 reports from Swiss security companies concerning operations abroad last year. This was 114 more than in 2016.

+ Read more about the findings here

Swiss dealings with Saudi Arabia are currently in the spotlight following the killing of a Saudi dissident, Jamal Khashoggi, in Turkey earlier this month. Foreign Affairs Minister Ignazio Cassis said on Wednesday that Switzerland would re-assess its political relations with the country.

Saudi Arabia is a key partnerexternal link for Switzerland in the Arab world and the Middle East region.


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