Ex-minister’s hostage ransom remark draws attention of prosecutor

Leuenberger now swears that no ransoms were paid to release hostages whilst he was in office. Keystone / Marcel Bieri

The Swiss federal prosecutor is examining whether a former government minister broke the official secrets act by suggesting that Switzerland has paid ransoms for hostages.

This content was published on February 26, 2021 - 15:53

Moritz Leuenberger, who served in cabinet between 1995 and 2010, recently told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper that “if a hostage has been released, a payment has probably been made”.

Switzerland’s official position is that it does not pay to get hostages released and Leuenberger has rowed back on his remarks, blaming the newspaper for clumsy wording.

But the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has confirmed to the Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA that it is considering a prosecution. The OAG has asked the justice ministry for its advice on whether to take criminal action.

Leuenberger gave the media interviewExternal link on February 6, which focused on the theme of lying in the political and personal sphere. His comments immediately drew a backlash of criticism.

He later said that no ransom payments were ever decided in government during his term of office. “But sometimes it can be assumed that something might have flowed through other channels. Nevertheless, the government denies this. In my opinion that is a legitimate lie. And that is precisely my key message.”

Neither the OAG nor justice ministry would give further comment on this issue.

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