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Government to investigate Swissair collapse

The Swiss president, Moritz Leuenberger, says that those responsible for the collapse of Swissair should be brought to justice Keystone Archive

The Swiss president and transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger, has called for an inquiry into those responsible for the collapse of Switzerland's national airline, Swissair.

This content was published on November 3, 2001 - 16:24

In Saturday's edition of the Swiss newspaper "Tages-Anzeiger", Leuenberger said the government wanted to "shed light on the reasons behind the Swissair debacle."

"Those who suffered prejudice because of the collapse must be given justice."

The investigation, which could take up to a year, is expected to cost several million francs. Former Swissair management will be made liable for any damages proportionally to their responsibilities.

No social benefits

Leuenberger said the government could not participate in any kind of social benefits plan for the 4,500 employees made redundant without compensation as a result of the Swissair crisis. The employees, he said, will have to seek unemployment benefits.

"There are other companies that, like Swissair, have been placed in receivership," he said. "Their employees have had to resort to unemployment benefits."

Leuenberger justified the government's cash injection into Swissair by pointing out that "four times as many jobs would have been lost had we [the government] not intervened."

"Thousands of unemployed Swissair workers would not have been able to pay taxes," Leuenberger added. "This would have meant a considerable drop in state revenues."

Last minute solution

On Friday, the Finance Ministry found a solution to the financing crisis at subsidiaries of the collapsed airline. Because of the measure, Swissair planes are no longer in danger of being grounded a second time.

SR Technics, Atraxis and Swissport, which have been in financial dire straits since the collapse of the national flag carrier, will receive funds as part of the SFr1 billion ($610 million) provided by the government under a SFr4.24 billion ($2.6 billion) rescue package for Swissair.

Peter Siegenthaler, director of the Swiss Finance Ministry, said on Friday he would transfer the first tranche of SFr50 million ($30.7 million) to the airline, now that the problem with the subsidiaries has been resolved.

Switzerland's two largest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse as well as Unique, the company running Zurich airport, will pay a SFr100 million ($61.3 million) bridging loan to SR Technics.

This amount is expected to keep the maintenance unit's operations running until it can be bought by other investors.

Atraxis

Atraxis, the information technology unit, will receive SFr35 million ($ 21 million) from the cantons of Zurich and Basel as well as the three major airports, Zurich, Basel and Geneva.

Jean-Pierre Jobin, director of Geneva airport, said the cash injection was a loan for a company that needs short-term funding.

"Atraxis will be sold and the buyer will take over the loan," he said in an interview with the Swiss-French newspaper, Tribune de Genève.

The money should keep Atraxis' operation going until the end of November and according to the Finance Ministry, takeover talks for the company are well advanced.

Apart from the German airline Lufthansa, the American information technology company EDS has also expressed an interest in acquiring Atraxis.

The liquidity for Swissport, the baggage and freight handler, is also said to be secured for the next few weeks.

swissinfo with agencies

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