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Politicians focus on links between politics and business

Peter Hess called on the parliamentary committee to discuss politicians’ business interests

(Keystone Archive)

A parliamentary committee on Friday decided that politicians should declare all their business interests. The meeting was called after Peter Hess, president of the House of Representatives, resigned from the Board of British American Tobacco International (BATI).

The committee recommended the removal of two adjectives currently inscribed in the law. The adjectives "significant" and "important" have posed interpretation problems for parliamentarians, who are officially expected to declare their mandates in companies whose capital exceeds SFr5 million.

The reforms proposed by the committee were accepted by the offices of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Friday's meeting came after Switzerland's highest-ranking politician, Peter Hess, recently stepped down from his BATI position 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.

Speaking after his resignation, Hess called on the parliamentary services committee to discuss the issue of politicians' business interests "to avoid uncertainty and to assure full transparency".

Alessandro Del Prete, the parliamentary services spokesman, said that as things stood, parliamentarians were free to exercise their own discretion about whether to reveal the extent of their business interests.

"Members of parliament are not forced to declare their interests as long as ... they represent an organisation whose capital does not exceed SFr 5 million ($2.99 million)," he told swissinfo.

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

swissinfo


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