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Parliament chief calls for more transparency over members' interests

Peter Hess has called for members of parliament to be more open about their business interests

(Keystone Archive)

A day after resigning from the board of British American Tobacco International (BATI), Peter Hess, the president of Switzerland's House of Representatives, has called for more transparency in politicians' links to business.

Switzerland's highest ranking politician made the call after stepping down from BATI's board in response to accusations that the company was involved in cigarette smuggling in the early 1990s. The company said smuggling may have taken place, but denied any involvement.

Hess told Swiss German television that "to avoid uncertainty and to assure full transparency" he wants the issue to be discussed at the next meeting of the parliamentary services on Friday.

Under Swiss law, members of parliament are not compelled to declare their associations with private firms and other organisations - the law merely suggests that they do so.

Hess never acknowledged his position on the board of BATI. In a statement on Monday, his office said he was stepping down to avoid a "possible conflict of interest", which could arise in future negotiations between Switzerland and the European Union over issues such as cigarette smuggling and money laundering.

Hess heads the department which holds the register of parliamentarians' interests.

by Katja Mäder


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