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Defence Minister Ogi doubtful about Bellasi case allegations

Swiss Defence Minister Adolf Ogi addressed parliament Tuesday over the Bellasi scandal and said there were increasing doubts about the military intelligence officer’s claims that he was ordered by his superiors to set up a secret intelligence unit.

This content was published on August 31, 1999 - 11:59

Swiss Defence Minister Adolf Ogi addressed parliament Tuesday over the Bellasi scandal and said there were increasing doubts about the military intelligence officer’s claims that he was ordered by his superiors to set up a secret intelligence unit.

Ogi said the ongoing questioning of Dino Bellasi by federal prosecutors had raised doubts whether military intelligence chief Peter Regli had ordered the former ministry accountant to finance the secret unit by stealing SFr8.65 million ($5.8 million) from ministry funds.

Regli, who has been suspended along with three other leading intelligence unit officers, has rejected Bellasi’s accusations as lies.

Ogi again conceded that the fraud case was serious and had undermined public trust in the defence ministry and its intelligence unit. But he warned against using the scandal to press for the abolition of the unit, saying the Swiss government needed the institution.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday debated the scandal, which has made headlines and sparked a heated debate about whether an independent parliamentary inquiry should take place.

Left of centre parties again called for such a special commission to probe the ministry’s intelligence activities and policies. But the majority of parties represented in the government said a possible parliamentary investigation should not take place until federal prosecutors had completed their own inquiry.

The defence ministry has already ordered a review of its financial transactions in order to find out how it was possible that so much money was channelled away for so many years without somebody noticing.

Bellasi was arrested on August 13 on suspicion of having pocketed advance payments in cash for military refresher courses which never took place. His activities are said to go back to 1994.

Federal prosecutors have seized about 220 weapons, including sniper-style rifles, Uzis and Swiss army rifles, which Bellasi had stashed away in an arms cache.

Some of the weapons were test fired by soldiers serving with the intelligence unit.

Bellasi’s defence lawyer said Tuesday he was seeking a psychiatric examination of his client.

From staff and wire reports.

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