by Martin Stoll
Bern - The accusations are weighty and are politically explosive: customs agents from Austria are said to have illegally acquired information on gangs of smugglers in Switzerland. The Federal Office for Police (BAP) confirmed this weekend that investigations of prohibited activities in Switzerland are in process in regard to this matter. It is alleged that Austrian officers collected information in Switzerland on weapons, meat and cigarette smugglers without first informing Bern. The agents under investigation may be subject to apprehension or imprisonment in Switzerland. The Federal Police have had actual accounts of the illegal activities since the end of February. Because of the explosive potential of the case, federal Representative Metzler has been extensively informed of the situation.
It is highly inopportune for federal officials that this affair has come to light at this moment due to research by the "SonntagsZeitung." A politically encumbered visit by Austrian Federal Chancellor Schuessel is planned for this Friday. Instead of attesting to being mutually good neighbors, they will now not be able to escape words of clarification. For instance, Switzerland has to claim a serious violation of souvereignity. For a long time, Austria - as have other EU nations - has been vexed because Switzerland provides only inadequate official and legal asisstance in investigating smuggling, which causes Austria billions in tax losses.
With a view towards the state visit, investigations by the Federal Police have been stopped by the uppermost official. That was reported by a well-informed source. It was said that Anton Widmer, the Director of the Federal Office of Police (BAP) had given the order personally that an Austrian customs agent, whose name was known, should not be apprehended in the meantime, should he set foot in Switzerland. BAP Chief Widmer had his press spokesman deny that: "Police and investigative authorities have not been influenced by political motivations." Referring to the ongoing investigations, the BAP has refused to say whether steps are being taken against the accused customs agent.
The way the delicate investigations are proceeding are very peculiar: instead of quietly taking an opportunity to arrest the customs agent who is roaming about Switzerland, the Swiss authorities have included, of all people, the Austrian security authorities in the picture of events. Information to that effect has been verified by Federal Police Chief Urs von Daeniken. Result: now the customs agents under investigation have been warned and there will be no apprehension: "I have been advised by my employer not to travel to Switzerland. I'll be arrested," said an accused customs agent whose name was found out by the "SonntagsZeitung."
To be sure, he made no secret about his activities in Switzerland: in his off-duty hours, he frequently went to Switzerland and met with private persons. "The conversations we had sometimes turned to smuggling," he admitted. However, he said he had never been "active operationally" in Switzerland. The customs agent categorially denied that money had ever been exchanged for information: "We can't afford such frivolities because of budget cuts."
Open hesitation in taking steps against the - practically admitted - illegal investigator is surprising. That is to say, informal meets between foreign offiicals in Switzerland have previously been considered by Swiss State Security to be grounds for rapid intervention.
Two examples: when one German Constitutional Security agent sought information in 1998 in Basel from two Swiss women, he was arrested and not let out of investigative custody for four days. Or the case of Mossad agent Issac Bental: he sat in a holding cell for over two months because he had been caught with accomplices in 1998 in Bern-Koeniz setting up eavesdropping equipment in the residence of an alleged Hesbollah string-puller.
In the current case, the investigations did not really get underway until the "SonntagsZeitung" researched the matter. On Friday, federal investigators met with representatives of the federal attorney's office. "The Federal Police submitted an application to open an investigation," federal attorney's office spokesman Juerg Blaser confirmed afterwards.
An investigation with potential: because, according to information which has not been commented upon in advance by Swiss authorities, it is not just Austrian customs agents who are under suspicion. Evidence will also be reviewed of criminal investigators from other EU nations having been engaged in illegal missions in Switzerland.
Bern regularly gets criticism, last time from Brussels last November. In Switzerland, according to Per Brix Knudsen, Director of the EU anti-fraud unit "Uclaf," customs dodgers launder their illegally earned billions. The Swiss authorities - go the accusations - have repeatedly promised improvement. But, allegedly, nothing has happened, inquiries about the men behind the flourishing cigaratte smuggling business have found the Swiss Justice Department as passive now as it was before. The criticism is repeated on the theme of tax evasion. When revenue investigators complain about Switzerland and its banks, federal Justice officers just shrug their shoulders: the facts of the case are not followed up and legal assistance is not possible.
With its wide-open loopholes, Switzerland does not just attract career criminals and tax evaders. Because they are running into a wall in legal assistance, tax and customs investigators in need sometimes steer in the direction of the Confederacy [of Switzerland].
They investigate disguised as tourists. Individual cases have become public. The operation on the two French customs agents, Bernhard Rui and Pierre Schultz, is legendary. In 1980 they were apprehended by the Federal Police as they were trying to obtain lists of French bank customers. The ensuing diplomatic notes from Switzerland remained without effect: French customs tried it again in 1981. This time they were looking for French border-crossers who worked in Genevan banks.
The dark numbers of the undiscovered illegal investigative operations in Switzerland may be considerable, according to experts, because foreign agencies are very well aware of the political risks of such actions against friends. Because of that, they take preventive measures. Private investigators are frequently sent out so that, in case they are caught, there will be no connection with a state agency.
Foreign states do not just like to send officers over incognito for tax and customs transgressions, but also for political crimes. When it comes to sounding out exile groups, for instance. Whether it's Kurds, UCK or the Hezbollah: on the heels of those organization are secret agents with the assignment of observing the activities of the opponent in foreign countries. For instance, the Mossad commando who was accidentally caught in February 1998 in Bern-Koeniz had the order to install eavesdropping equipment in the vicinity of a Lebanese who had connections to the Hezbollah. And at the end of the 1980s, the Federal Police discovered a network of informants connected with Turkish officials who were spying on Kurds in Switzerland.
Mr. von Daeniken, you have spoken with your colleagues in Vienna about Austrian customs agents who were operating illegally in Switzerland. Since when do Swiss authorities warn the accused party of investigations?
Urs von Daeniken:
We did not inform them about the investigations, nor did we warn anybody. Our inquiry at the Austrian Interior Ministry was in the scope of preliminary statement about the determination of the facts of the case.
The suspicion arises that the opportunity was used to the mutual good among partners.
Urs von Daeniken:
When foreign officers investigate in Switzerland without permission, we go at it with everything we have. We did that in the operations of Mossad agents in Bern and of a German Constitutional Security agent in Basel. Neither will we tolerate such transgressions of territory in the future.
It will hardly come to that with the Austrian customs agent: the Viennese Finance Minstry has since urgently warned the accused officer against travelling into Switzerland. He was said to be threatened with arrest.
Urs von Daeniken:
I don't know anything about that. We are accustomed to carrying out investigations in a subtle manner. General arrests are proceeded by information which materialized from real suspicion. If it is verified that certain foreign officers have conducted themselves in an illicit manner, then the necessary investigative measures will be implemented.
Politically motivated pressures is said to have been exerted in the above-mentioned case by informed sources: apparently Austrian customs agents should not be sitting in a holding cell during a state visit by Federal Chancellor Schuessel.
Urs von Daeniken:
In no shape or form has politics meddled in the proceedings. There has been no interference.
Interview: Martin Stoll
Germany and Switzerland sign a far-reaching police agreement
Traffic citations can now have consequences
April 29, 1999
from our correspondent Hans-Walter Neunzig
Berne. German Interior Minister Otto Schily appeared euphoric after having signed a bilateral police agreement in Berne with his Swiss counterpart, Arnold Koller, after lengthy negotiations. "Modern, exemplary, and unique in Europe" is how Schily described the pact with Switzerland. Extensive cooperation between police and customs officers is an important step in the direction of a "European partnership."
The agreement is said to be a milestone for endeavors internal to the EU for a security architecture. Interior Minister Koller also used the occasion to sign two similar pacts with Austrian Interior Minister Karl Schloegl and his Liechtenstein colleague, Markus Ritter. Since agreements have also been signed recently with Italy and France, cooperation agreements now exist between all EU members and non-EU member Switzerland.
The agreement with Germany goes very far even in comparison to arrangements internal to the EU, and almost gives Switzerland the status of a Schengen state. Switzerland is the only country Europe-wide which cannot access the investigative network called the Schengen Information System (SIS). However, efforts are also being made in this area. Germany will introduce a proposal to the EU which would gradually integrate Switzerland into the SIS, announced Interior Minister Schily.
Besides the mutual exchange of investigative data on persons and things, common police stations and the exchange of officers were agreed upon in the so-called controlled thoroughfare of drugs, counterfeit currency and weapons, if this is necessary to the investigation of [criminal] backers.
Switzerland and Germany have also come to a far-reaching agreement in the case of police "pursuit," the pursuit of perpetrators from the scene of the crime. Police officers of either nation may observe, pursue and even apprehend suspects who cross the border into foreign territory.
Upon request, a temporary, limited assignment of undercover investigators is also possible in the neighboring country. Just last year a Baden-Wuerttemberg state security agent caused a furor in Basel along with a diplomatic incident when he was arrested by the police while covertly investigating the Scientology sect in Basel. That sort of assignment is now possible in the agreement between the authorities.
Also, the era of automobile operators being able to fearlessly throw away their traffic citations will be soon be over. The pact provides for participating states to relay information about traffic registration, and to support the collection of tickets of more than 70 franks (85 marks).
The agreed upon points exceed, in many areas, the Schengen treaty, thereby blazing new trails, is how Schily explained the long duration of negotiations. Swiss Interior Minister Koller, who will be out of office shortly, sees the pact as the end point of the effort to avoid the isolation of Switzerland. The necessity for negotiation still exists for Switzerland in the area of asylum. Since Switzerland cannot participate in the Dublin First Asylum Accord, it is now the only European country to which asylum seekers who have been refused asylum in the EU can turn. In the past year this led to a sudden leap in the number of applications submitted for asylum.
From the "Stuttgarter Nachrichten"
April 11, 1998
Stuttgart Constitutional Protection agent investigates Scientology in neighboring country of Stuttgart/Bern (dpa)
The arrest of a Baden-Wurttemberg Constitutional Protection agent, who was in Switzerland investigating the Scientology sect, has caused diplomatic tension. The Swiss State Department requested the presence of the German Ambassador in order to protest against the transgression of Swiss sovereignty. The German Ambassador expressed his regret of the incident. It was made known on Thursday that the Constitutional Protection agent had been arrested carrying false identification on Monday in Basel, after a meeting with two Swiss critics. Three days later he was released from detention on bail. The authorities in Stuttgart had posted bail for him and guaranteed the the man would take part in legal proceedings in Switzerland. He was charged with espionage and carrying false identification.
"When information is exchanged about an association which stands in the political spotlight, then that is political intelligence", said a speaker of the Swiss Federal Assembly. Baden-Wurttembergs Office of Constitutional Protection has, for over a year, been observing the Scientology organization. The investigator was following a lead from Stuttgart about connections between Scientologists in both countries, whereupon he drove to Basel. He made contact with a Swiss Scientology critic, who brought a community politician with her to the (presumably first) personal meeting. The politician is said to have sent the investigator away and called the police, at which time the investigator was arrested. The Office of Constitutional Protection has not yet been able to explain why the man had traveled to Switzerland, and had not, as presumably foreseen, arranged a meeting on the German side. On Friday, the Baden-Wurttemberg Secretary of Interior, Tomas Schauble (CDU), spoke of "practical mistakes" which are to be avoided. At the same time he stated that the battle against Scientology must be decisively continued. He referred to the latest investigations of the Hamburg Office of Constitutional Protection. This confirmed that Scientology operates a secret service which proceeds against critics of the sect with all available means.
Transcript of a segment of the news broadcast "10 vor 10" (10 before 10) of the Swiss television station SFDRS of April 9, 1998
Note: in this segment, the interviews are partly in the Swiss-German dialect and differ from the German sub-titles of the available video from 3SAT broadcasting. This translation favors the original Swiss meaning as much as possible.
Abschrift eines Beitrags der Nachrichten-Sendung "10 vor 10" des Schweizer Fernsehens SFDRS vom 9.4.98
Anm. d. Übersetzers: Im Beitrag sind Interviews teilweise in Schweizerdeutscher Sprache und unterscheiden sich von der Schriftdeutschen Untertitelung der mir vorhandenen Videoversion für den Fernsehsender 3SAT. Ich habe mich soweit möglich an das Schweizer Original gehalten.
Announcer: This was probably a case of over-enthusiasm of an official of the German Constitutional Protection Office. He traveled with fake identification into Switzerland with the goal of obtaining information about the Scientologists from a Swiss woman. The federal district attorney's office was promptly notified. The German was put in detention under suspicion of espionage. Franz Haldimann has compiled the state of the information
[Beitrag Anfang] Verfassungsschützer verhaftet"
Nachrichtensprecherin: Das was wohl etwas übereifrig vom Beamten des Deutschen Verfassungsschutzes. Er reist mit falschen Papieren in die Schweiz ein mit dem Ziel, bei einer Schweizerin Informationen über die Scientologen einzuholen. Prompt wird die Bundesanwaltschaft eingeschaltet. Der Deutsche Beamte muss unter Spionageverdacht in Untersuchungshaft. Franz Haldimann hat den Stand der Informationen zusammengetragen.
(Cut to Franz Haldimann)
Narrator: The subject of the zealouness of the Constitutional Protection Office [a poster of L. Ron Hubbard is shown.] The Baden-Wurttemberg Office of Constitutional Protection had a burning interest in Scientology and would now also like to oversee the border traffic between the German and the Swiss organization. Scientology, to be sure, does not properly understand this interest.
>Filmbeitrag von Franz Haldimann [Spr:]<
Spr: Das Subjekt der verfassungsschützerischen Begierde [gezeigt wird Plakat mit L. Ron Hubbart]. Der Baden-württembergische Verfassungsschutz interessiert sich brennend für Scientology und möchte jetzt auch den Grenzverkehr zwischen der Deutschen und der Schweizer Organisation überwachen. Scientology mag dieses Interesse allerdings nicht recht verstehen.
[Office, probably of Scientology]
Jurg Stettler, Scientology Switzerland:
In Germany that has been the case for many months and I simply saw that they were slowly becoming nervous, because they had to be done within two months and reports had to be made, and they simply found nothing intelligent. And now they have tried to find something in Switzerland.
[Büro wahrscheinlich von Scientology]
Jürg Stettler, Scientology Schweiz:
Also in Deutschland ist das seit vielen Monaten der Fall und ich sehe einfach, dass sie dort langsam nervös werden, weil sie innerhalb von 2 Monaten fertig sein müssen und Bericht erstatten müssen und sie einfach nichts Gescheites finden. Und jetzt haben sie versucht, in der Schweiz noch irgendwas ausfindig zu machen.
Narrator: In the historical district of Zurich lives a woman [Odette Jaccard], who find Scientology less harmless.
They take people into Scientology, take their personality, ruin them financially, and break entire families apart. In Switzerland we have had three suicides because of Scientology.
Spr: In der Zürcher Altstadt lebt eine Frau [Odette Jaccard], welche Scientology weniger harmlos findet.
Sie nehmen Leute in Scientology rein, nehmen ihre Persönlichkeit, ruinieren sie finanziell und bringen ganze Familien auseinander. Wir hatten in der Schweiz drei Selbstmorde wegen Scientology.
Narrator: Odette Jaccard has already repeatedly been in phone contact with the German Office of Constitutional Protection. Last Monday she met a German agent in the Hotel Victoria, in Basel. With her was a Basel legislative advisor [Susanne Haller].
This man tried to commission us to spy on people in Switzerland.
What interested him was which people in the southern German area were graduating from Scientology course and where they took them, in Basel or in Zurich. But I couldn't help him there.
Spr: Odette Jaccard hat schon öfters mit dem Deutschen Verfassungsschutz telefoniert. Am letzten Montag traf sie im Basler Hotel Victoria" einen Deutschen Agenten. Mit dabei war eine Basler Grossrätin [=Legislativ-Rätin] [Susanne Haller].
Dieser Mann hat versucht, uns beiden Frauen Aufträge zu erteilen um Menschen in der Schweiz auszuspionieren.
Was ihn interessierte war, welche Leute im Süddeutschen Raum bei Scientology Kurse absolvieren und wo sie sie besuchen, also in Basel oder in Zürich. Aber da konnte ich ihm nicht helfen.
Narrator: The instructions for this meeting were given by the Baden-Wurttemberg State Office for Constitutional Protection.
Helmut Rannacher, Office of Constitutional Protection of Baden-Wurtemberg:
There is a lot of border traffic back and forth. All courses and sessions take place in Basel. And that was the background behind our attempt to learn some information about the activities of German Scientologists in Switzerland. It had nothing to do with Swiss citizens; our interest lies in the direction of German Scientologists.
Spr: Den Auftrag für dieses Treffen hat das baden-württembergische Landesamt für Verfassungsschutz erteilt.
Helmut Rannacher, Verfassungsschutz Baden-Württemberg.: Hier gibt es einen regen Grenzverkehr hin und her. Alle Kurse und Sitzungen finden im Raum Basel statt. Und das war der Hintergrund, dass wir den Versuch machen wollten, einige Informationen über die Aktivitäten Deutscher Scientologen in der Schweiz zu erfahren. Es ging überhaupt nicht um Schweizer Staatsbürger, unser Interesse ging in Richtung deutscher Scientologen.
[Picture of a Demo]
Narrator in interview with Helmut Rannacher:
He identified himself with false identification in Basel. But he is an official of this State Office.
The meeting was held quite openly in Switzerland. This was not what was intended. It was, rather, intended that there be a meeting in the vicinity of the border. Why that was changed at the last moment to downtown Basel, I am not able to say at the moment.
[Bilder einer Demo]
Spr im Interview mit Helmut Rannacher:
Er hat sich in Basel mit einem falschen Ausweis ausgewiesen. Er ist aber ein Beamter dieses Landesamtes.
Das Gespräch ist ganz offensichtlich in der Schweiz durchgeführt worden. Dies war so nicht beabsichtigt, sondern es war ein Gespräch in Grenznähe beabsichtigt. Warum sich das ganze letztlich in die Innenstadt von Basel verlagert hat, vermag ich im Augenblick nicht zu sagen.
Narrator. The German agent was turned in by one of his two meeting partners.
I knew it from the first second that I would turn him in. And I *wanted* to turn him in. And I *wanted* him to be arrested. It is illegal, if the Office of Constitutional Protection from another land comes into Switzerland and searches for data on Swiss women and men.
For her colleague in Zurich [Odette Jaccard], the matter had an epilogue. Her residence was searched, her computer was taken away and she herself was accused of forbidden political intelligence service.
Narrator in interview with Odette Jaccard:
Are you a spy?
[laughs bitterly] I am no spy. I seek an explanation, and that has nothing to do with espionage.
Spr: Angezeigt hatte den Deutschen Agenten eine seiner beiden Gesprächspartnerinnen.
Ich wusste es von der ersten Sekunde an, dass ich ihn anzeigen werde. Und ich wollte ihn anzeigen. Und ich wollte, dass er verhaftet wird. Es ist illegal, wenn der Verfassungsschutz eines anderen Landes in die Schweiz kommt und Daten über Schweizerinnen und Schweizer erforscht.
Für ihre Kollegin in Zürich [Odette Jaccard] hat die Sache ein Nachspiel. Ihre Wohnung wurde durchsucht, der Computer mitgenommen und sie selber angeklagt wegen verbotenem Politischen Nachrichtendienstes.
Spr im Interview mit Odette Jaccard:
Sind Sie eine Spionin?
[lacht bitter] Ich bin keine Spionin. Ich betreibe Aufklärung, und das hat mit Spionage nichts zu tun.