Swiss Defence Minister Adolf Ogi said on Thursday that the chief of military intelligence, Peter Regli, was shown to be free of guilt in a multi-million fraud case. A number of senior officials would now be investigated for their role in the case.This content was published on December 2, 1999 - 17:17
Swiss Defence Minister Adolf Ogi said on Thursday that the chief of military intelligence, Peter Regli (picture), was shown to be free of guilt in a multi-million fraud case. But Ogi said that a number of senior officials would now be investigated for their role in the case.
Ogi made the announcement at a news conference in the capital Berne, capping weeks of investigations into the so-called Dino Bellasi affair. Intelligence officer and military accountant Bellasi is accused of having stolen SFr8.8 million ($5.6 million) from defence ministry funds.
The Ways and Means Committee said in its report, made public the previous day, that the Bellasi case was one of fraud, and not an intelligence case.
That finding was crucial since media headlines, for months, had speculated about conspiracies by military intelligence. The reports surfaced when Bellasi accused Regli of ordering the formation of a shadow intelligence unit – an accusation which Bellasi later retracted.
Ogi told the news conference that Regli had been “completely cleared” of any possible illegal activities and that his suspension was lifted.
However, Ogi added that Regli, 55, would not return to his previous job and take early retirement next year. Until then, he would work toward reforming the service and would present his proposals to the general staff.
The defence minister underlined that the loss of public confidence caused by the massive fraud case is significant. Chief of Staff Hans-Ulrich Scherrer echoed this assessment and said there could be no question of returning back to normal.
Senior brass, such as the suspended head of the strategic military intelligence unit, Fred Schreier, as well as a number of other general staff members will now be investigated.
Schreier co-signed documents which allowed Bellasi to collect hundreds of thousands of Swiss francs from the Swiss National Bank to pay for non-existent military expenses.
Ogi rejected accusations raised by the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday that the government had not shown enough leadership in transforming military intelligence into a post-Cold War institution.
He said the intelligence unit performed well, not least in the recent Balkan crisis, and that the government had simply trusted the intelligence service.
Ogi also referred to the reforms already under way in the defence ministry, including the appointment of a civilian intelligence coordinator.
From staff and wire reports.
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