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Army scandal Officers found guilty over illegal shooting lessons

A guard keeps watch outside the military court in Yverdon-les-Bains

(Keystone)

Four officers have been have been fined and another acquitted on Friday in a trial over the misuse of army equipment for private gain. Despite dismissing the most serious charges, the judge said the “chaos” in the management of munitions justified the sentence.

The five officers, from the French-speaking part of Switzerland and from the infantry training unit, had been accused of charges relating to the misuse of army equipment for personal financial gain, namely using army munition and shooting ranges to give private shooting lessons, via an association. This was said to have earned them CHF800,000 ($800,000).

The judge at a military court in Yverdon-les-Bains dismissed the main accusations of professional fraud and serious breach of trust, but maintained the charges of fraudulent documentation and non-observance of army standing orders.

The principal accused, a lieutenant colonel, was handed down a sentence of 120 daily fines at CHF200 a day as well as a single fine of CHF2,000. Three others were given daily fines of between 30-60 days. The fifth accused was acquitted.

Handing down his ruling, the judge acknowledged the devotion to his mission of the principle accused and pointed out that the association’s activities had not been a big secret, even to the officers’ superiors.

"Chaos"

However the judge did criticise the lack of surveillance of the munitions at the unit. And in general, the court decided that the “administrative chaos in the management of munitions justified a sentence and not just simply disciplinary action”. It went on to say that “no soldier was above the law. These practices should never have been accepted in a militia army service”. The judge added that he was “shocked to realise the liberties taken with the rules and procedures”.

The lawyer for the principle accused welcomed that the principle charges fraud and breach of trust had been dismissed but expressed surprise at the severity of the sentence. One of those receiving a sentence has already announced his intention to appeal.

The plaintiff, armasuisse – the procurement office of the defence ministry - was satisfied with the recognition of guilt of four of the accused, but was less so on the ruling on which charges were considered. It will wait for the written judgements to decide whether to lodge an appeal.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/ilj

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