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Couchepin says corrupt firms face loss of government support

Couchepin sends warning to corrupt companies. Keystone / Alessandro della Valle

The economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, has warned that Swiss companies guilty of corrupt dealings abroad may lose the export risk guarantees (ERG) they receive from the government.

He said export companies were responsible for their dealings, and it was not the job of his ministry to make sure they stayed within the law.

In a letter to the development aid group, the Berne Declaration, Couchepin welcomed the tighter anti-corruption law introduced on May 1. He supported the arguments advanced by the department responsible for issuing ERGs that exporters had to ensure they complied with the law.

He added, however, that officials should withdraw or withhold payments if companies were found to be involved in corruption.

Couchepin’s statement – published on Tuesday – came in response to an accusation by the Berne Declaration in June that officials in the department were trying to block Indonesia’s corruption probe into Switzerland’s dealings with the former Suharto regime. Couchepin denied the claim.

Indonesia was the most important recipient of Swiss ERGs when Suharto stepped down in 1998. It had guarantees worth SFr1 billion, mainly to cover three power stations run by the Swiss-Swedish firm ABB.

The Berne Declaration said that under Suharto, Indonesia’s energy sector had been notoriously corrupt. It claimed ABB participated in those practices, which included generating considerably overpriced electricity.

The power plants have since been sold to the French company, Alstom, and the Swiss ERGs are still valid.

swissinfo with agencies

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