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Parliament vetoes special probe into Swissair debacle

Plans to set up a parliamentary committee to probe the collapse of Swissair have been thrown out by the House of Representatives.

The planned investigation was intended to determine whether the federal authorities were culpable in the collapse of the national airline.

Two of the four main political parties were keen to examine whether any blame can be levelled in particular against the Federal Office for Civil Aviation and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.

The decision came three months after the House came out in favour of setting up a special committee.

Since 1964 only four such special committees were established to investigate incidents in the defence, justice and finance ministries.

Arguments

A majority of the House, supported by the finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, argued that a special committee had no significant extra powers and would only double up the work already undertaken by a regular parliamentary committee.

However, supporters of a special probe said the sheer size of the Swissair debacle called for extraordinary measures to restore the credibility of the aviation industry.

A standing committee of the Senate launched a probe a few days after the entire Swissair fleet was temporarily grounded last October.

Ongoing probe

During its probe the Senate committee heard from the former head of Swissair, Mario Corti, as well as the chairmen of Switzerland's biggest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, Marcel Ospel and Lukas Mühlemann.

They were all blamed for not doing enough to keep the former national carrier airborne. There are also suggestions the federal authorities failed to act to prevent the crisis.

The final report of the Senate committee is due to be debated by parliament in September.

Swissair had run out of cash last September as a result of a disastrous foreign expansion strategy. However, attempts failed to strike a deal between the banks and the federal authorities for a multi-million franc emergency cash injection and a bridge loan.

Swissair collapsed with debts of at least SFr12 billion ($7.7 billion). It merged with the regional carrier, Crossair, to form the new national carrier "swiss".

The new airline was launched at the end of March with a share capital of SFr2.7 billion. It is jointly funded by Swiss business and the public purse.

Urs Geiser with agencies


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