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Top politician steps down from board of tobacco firm

Peter Hess is stepping down to avoid a "potential conflict of interest"

(Keystone Archive)

The speaker of Switzerland's House of Representatives, Peter Hess, has resigned from the board of British American Tobacco (BAT) International. His departure is in response to accusations that the company was involved in cigarette smuggling in the early 1990s.

In a statement on Monday, the Swiss parliament said Hess had felt compelled to resign from BAT International's board in the light of the smuggling allegations.

"With this step, Peter Hess wants to leave no doubt that he unconditionally backs targeted combating of cigarette smuggling as well as the tightening of Swiss customs law with the goal of preventing money laundering activity."

Last year, Britain launched an investigation into claims that BAT was implicated in cigarette smuggling in Asia and Latin America in the early 1990s. BAT International is the Swiss-based unit of BAT, the world's second largest tobacco firm.

BAT said smuggling may have taken place, but insists it would have been without its permission or backing.

In a statement, Hess's office said his decision was is no way motivated by doubts over the integrity of BAT International.

It said he was stepping down to avoid a "possible conflict of interest", which could arise in future negotiations between Switzerland and the European Union over issues such as smuggling and money laundering.

Hess also resigned from the board of Mabritab, a cigarette firm based at the same address at BAT International in canton Zug.

swissinfo with agencies


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