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Swiss army may stop cash payments to soldiers

The Swiss armed forces may soon stop direct cash payments to soldiers doing their compulsory militia service and opt for other ways of payment, a defence ministry spokesman said Wednesday.

This content was published on August 18, 1999 - 17:41

The Swiss armed forces may soon stop direct cash payments to soldiers doing their compulsory militia service and opt for other ways of payment, a defence ministry spokesman said Wednesday.

The statement takes on special significance as the defense ministry has been shaken by a fraud case in which a senior administration official is suspected of having siphoned off millions of Swiss francs by illegally pocketing advance payments intended, in part, for soldiers’ salaries.

The defense ministry spokesman said the re-evaluation of cash payments was due to the fact that the daily salary for soldiers had recently been increased. In the case of an entire military company, for instance, this now amounts to large sums of cash.

The ministry is also considering abandoning advance cash payments for food and lodging for soldiers, the spokesman said.

He underlined that there were still some technical difficulties in moving away from cash payments since some soldiers did not have accounts with either a bank or the post office.

The ministry insisted that the discussion on how to pay soldiers in the future had nothing to do with the fraud case and had been on the table before the incident was discovered last week.

Swiss prosecutors suspect that ministry accountant Dino Bellasi stole SFr8.65 million ($5.8 million) in advance payments by the Swiss National Bank. The advance is normally used to pay for food, accommodation and the salaries of Swiss soldiers doing their refresher courses.

Swiss Defense Minister Adolf Ogi launched an investigation into how such fraud was possible.

"We will get to the bottom of this case and we will make sure such a crime will never happen again," Ogi said Wednesday.

From staff and wire reports.

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