Swiss to reopen probe into links with South Africa

Franz Wicki, president of the key parliamentary committee, which is reopening its 1999 probe into links between Switzerland and South Africa Keystone

A Swiss parliamentary committee is to reopen a probe into links with South Africa's former Apartheid regime.

This content was published on November 13, 2001 - 07:22

The head of the committee, Franz Wicki, said in Bern on Monday that the commission had reason to believe that the previous report was in part incorrect. But he refused to elaborate.

"The key committee met today and decided that we wanted to reopen the 1999 report we published about the Swiss relationship with South Africa," Wicki told swissinfo.

"There is certain information, which we need to clarify and information which is not complete and which certain documents failed to cover," he added.

The 1999 probe cleared the man at the centre of the investigation, the former head of Switzerland's intelligence service, Peter Regli, of any wrongdoing.

Wicki said the new investigation would seek to gather additional information related to possible links between Switzerland's military intelligence service and South Africa.

Chemical weapons

The new probe is also aimed at establishing whether Switzerland was involved in helping South Africa to acquire chemical weapons.

Under the mandate, the inquiry will question witnesses, examine documents in Switzerland and abroad, and be assisted by an independent expert.

However, it falls short of a full-fledged parliamentary inquiry demanded by politicians from the centre-left and several non-governmental organisations, including Jubilee South Africa.

Wicki said the new inquiry could be complicated, if it was seeking information from abroad, particularly in South Africa. He pointed out that a trial is still underway in the country against Wouter Basson, the former head of South Africa's covert chemical weapons programme, who claims Regli helped South Africa gain an illegal drug, Mandrax, from Russia in 1992.

Wicki added that the committee had limited financial means. But he promised to push ahead with the inquiry and announce results as soon as possible.

When asked if the committee's decision was influenced by recent allegations from Jubilee South Africa that certain Swiss banks and the Swiss secret service aided the oppressive apartheid regime, Wicki said there were a number of new considerations.

"We have to consider that at the moment in South Africa the trial of Mr Bassun is taking place," he told swissinfo. "Then there are demands towards certain companies and these are two of the reasons why we should look at it [the report]more carefully rather than leave it closed."

Defence Ministry inquiry

The Defence Ministry, which earlier this month launched its own administrative investigation, said it welcomed the move by the parliamentary committee.

The ministry said the two probes could complement each other to try and find out more about the past.

The Defence Ministry is also investigating accusations into whether Regli illegally destroyed documents and whether he assisted in the purchase of two Russian missiles.

swissinfo with agencies

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