Top politician to quit boards of overseas companies
Switzerland's speaker of the House of Representatives, Peter Hess, has announced he will pull out of his involvement in a number of letter box companies registered overseas.
Hess, regarded as Switzerland's most senior politician, made the comments in an interview with the Swiss newspaper, "dimanche.ch".
"I now admit I should have renounced my links with these companies before being elected to the office of speaker," he told the paper, "and my failure to do so was an error."
But Hess rejected calls for his resignation from the House of Representatives, saying the action would serve no purpose.
Hess maintains he was doing nothing wrong by serving as director of the companies.
The politician told a news conference in Bern last week he wanted to see an inquiry into the companies' business, and allegations they might have been involved in money laundering.
He had also asked self-regulatory authorities in his home canton of Zug to look into the papers that he has in his possession, as well as those of the companies - two of which are registered in Panama and the other in the British Virgin Islands.
Both "dimanche.ch" and the Swiss German paper, "SonntagsBlick", reveal that Hess also has business ties with another letter box company registered in Liechtenstein.
The papers allege the company is also administered by Oswald Bühler, a key figure in a slush funds scandal surrounding Germany's Christian Democratic Party.
Hess denied he knew anything about the connection between Bühler and the bribery scandal in Germany.
"I know nothing about this," Hess told the "SonntagsBlick".
"I have never connected the bribery scandal with the name Bühler and I have absolutely no business ties with the man."
A number of political opponents and analysts have questioned Hess's judgement. They said it was insensitive to be involved in companies registered in countries known to have a reputation for money laundering.
Hess's business connections last hit the headlines in February when it was revealed he was on the board of British American Tobacco which was alleged to have done business with a cigarette smuggler. Hess resigned immediately.
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