Defense minister Ogi promises Glasnost over Bellasi scandal

Swiss Defense Minister Adolf Ogi said Wednesday that he had ordered a thorough screening of the military’s financial transactions in order to avoid a repeat of the Bellasi fraud case that has been making headlines in Switzerland in the past days.

This content was published on August 25, 1999 - 16:34

Swiss Defense Minister Adolf Ogi said Wednesday that he had ordered a thorough screening of the military’s financial transactions in order to avoid a repeat of the Bellasi fraud case that has been making headlines in Switzerland in the past days.

Dino Bellasi, an intelligence officer and former accountant in the ministry, is under arrest and is being investigated for allegedly stealing SFr8.65 million ($5.8 million) by doctoring the accounts and pocketing financial advances for military refresher courses which never took place.

The discovery last week of a weapons cache set up by Bellasi triggered allegations of a secret army, which Bellasi’s lawyer said was ordered by the now suspended head of the military’s intelligence unit Peter Regli.

Regli has rejected the allegation and accused Bellasi of fabricating a “web of lies.”

“I want the whole truth to come out,” Ogi told a news conference in the capital Berne after he briefed the cabinet on the latest developments in the case.

But he said there was no question of making rash or radical decisions in the case: “We need time to get to the truth.”

The minister said financial transactions were now being analysed and monitored in order to find out how it was possible that so much money was siphoned off.

The ministry said it was also looking at stopping cash payments of salaries to soldiers doing their military service.

Ogi told journalists that he would now follow a policy of Glasnost. “We want to demystify the military intelligence unit,” he said, raising the possibility of following the example of other countries and setting up an Internet site.

But he added that there could be no question of dissolving the unit as long as Swiss troops were serving abroad – a reference to the current mission of Swiss troops in the Balkans.

The defense minister – who has been strongly criticised for not informing the public quickly enough about the scandal – said he hoped that the Federal Prosecutor’s Office would be able to give the public at least some information on what the current investigation has brought to light.

Some media reports have criticised the secretive way in which the federal authorities are following up this case, arguing that the lack of public information is leading to speculation and rumours.

From staff and wire reports.

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