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Sacked ambassador chooses Berlin over Bern

The Borer's new luxury pad lies in Potsdam, outside Berlin

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss ambassador to Germany, Thomas Borer, has decided to stay in Berlin, after he was recalled following a tabloid scandal.

This was Borer's last week as ambassador and brings to an end to the career of Switzerland's most colourful diplomat. He resigned unexpectedly on April 10 after the Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, ordered him to return to Bern.

Borer fell from favour after the Swiss tabloid newspaper "SonntagsBlick" published photographs allegedly showing a 34-year-old woman entering the Berlin embassy late at night, while Borer's wife was away in Switzerland.

Borer denied claims by the woman that they had had an affair, and he and his wife are now suing the paper.

According to reports in the Swiss press, Borer faxed his resignation from Berlin to the Swiss ministry, just days before he was due back in Bern.

Luxury digs

The mass-market "Blick" newspaper said Borer had decided to move to the German city of Potsdam, on the outskirts of Berlin, taking up residence in a luxury €14 million ($12.6 million) mansion with river views.

The "dream villa", as the newspaper described it, is a fully restored home with a grand entrance, chandeliers and gold-plated ceilings.

The paper also speculated about whether he would take up residence rent-free or whether influential business friends were picking up the tab.

Either way, the tabloid's view is that the house is symbolic of Borer, and his wife Shawne Fielding's, exhibitionistic approach to life.

And for many observers, it was that flashiness - much of it fuelled by his wife's background as a former Ms Texas - that upset Swiss sensibilities.

Fall from grace

To some, Borer's fall from grace has been blamed on a Swiss version of the "tall poppy syndrome" - the tendency to behead anyone whose profile outstrips his or her role.

The Swiss have become accustomed to seeing the media-savvy diplomat on their front pages; first as a rising star, when in his 30s he was posted to the United States, and as the head of a key taskforce probing Switzerland's financial activities during the Second World War.

And since arriving in Berlin three years ago, the Borers have cultivated a reputation as A-list celebrities, feted by the German press as a breath of fresh air from the normally circumspect world of Swiss diplomacy.

"Inappropriate"

Their critics, however, disagree and accuse him of betraying Switzerland by allowing his stage presence to eclipse his position.

The Borers were criticised after Fielding posed scantily clad at the embassy with a Swiss flag as her backdrop. And society-page press photos of the pair kicking-up their heels at parties did not help.

And then came the newspaper scandal. For Deiss, it was all too much. He cancelled Borer's posting and offered him a job as an international ambassador.

That offer has now been firmly rejected.

According to the German daily newspaper "Die Welt", Borer is planning to establish a business institute in Potsdam, possibly in public relations.

by Jacob Greber

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