Russian espionage reaching ‘intolerable levels’ say Swiss officials

Jean-Philippe GaudinRussian espionage activities in Switzerland are increasing and are crossing long-established “red lines”, according to senior Swiss defense and intelligence officials who spoke at a news conference last week. The claims were made by Guy Parmelin, head of Switzerland’s Federal Department of Defense, and Jean-Philippe Gaudin, director of the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service (NDB). The two men spoke on Friday before reporters in Bern. Following the news conference, Gaudin spoke with reporters from the Reuters news agency.

Gaudin, who assumed the post of NDB director three months ago, told Reuters that Russian espionage activities in Switzerland have been increasing steadily in recent years. He refused to provide details, but said that “it is clear we have more activities than before”. Additionally, Moscow had more active spies in Switzerland than in previous years, said Gaudin. He refused to provide numbers, saying that he would “share that with [his] colleagues elsewhere and not with the media”. The NDB chief noted that Switzerland had always been a target of Soviet and Russian espionage because it hosts the headquarters of a large number of international and non-governmental organizations. However, what is different today, he said, is that Moscow is targeting Switzerland’s “sensitive infrastructure”, which is “a red line”. He did not provide further information. Speaking alongside Gaudin, Defense Minister Parmelin said that Russian espionage activities against Swiss national infrastructure “has reached intolerable levels”.

These allegations by senior Swiss government officials come a little more than a month after reports that Swiss and other Western intelligence agencies thwarted a plot by two Russians who tried to hack the computer systems of a Swiss government laboratory that investigates nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The laboratory, located in the western Swiss city of Spiez, had been commissioned by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to carry out investigations related to the poisoning of Russian double agent //Sergei Skripal// and his daughter Yulia in March of this year. It has also carried out probes on the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Russian-backed government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

The Russian embassy in Bern rejected the accusations of espionage and called the allegations made by Gaudin, and Parmelin “absurd”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 23 October 2018 | Permalink

Swiss officials defend alleged spying on German tax-fraud investigators

SwitzerlandSenior Swiss government officials, including the defense minister and the director of the country’s intelligence agency, have defended Switzerland’s right to spy on European tax-fraud investigators who meddle in Swiss affairs. Earlier this week, German authorities announced the arrest of a Swiss national who was allegedly spying on the activities of German tax-fraud investigators in Frankfurt. According to German officials and media reports, the man, identified only as Daniel M., is an employee of the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service. The agency, known by its German-language initials, NDB, is Switzerland’s main intelligence organization.

As intelNews reported on Monday, Daniel M. was said to be monitoring the activities of German tax-fraud investigators who have been trying for years to stop German citizens from having secret bank accounts abroad. In the past decade, German authorities have paid nearly $100 million to employees of Swiss banks in return for information about the identities of German bank account holders in the small alpine country. The Swiss government has strongly criticized Berlin for encouraging Swiss banking sector employees to steal internal corporate information, a practice that goes against Switzerland’s stringent privacy laws. On Tuesday, Germany’s Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, summoned Switzerland’s ambassador to Germany, Christine Schraner Burgener, to the Foreign Ministry, in order discuss Daniel M.’s arrest. A press statement that the Foreign Ministry sent on Tuesday to the German media said that the meeting had been called “in the interest of German-Swiss friendship”.

But the Swiss do not appear to be interested in discussing. On Tuesday, Markus Seiler, Director of the NDB, defended his agency’s right to spy on anyone who “uses illegal methods in Switzerland to steal state or business secrets”. Seiler, who was speaking in Bern, classified all such practices as espionage targeting the the Swiss economy. Asked by reporters whether Daniel M. was an NDB employee, Seiler said he could not comment. But he defended the NDB’s right to “fight the theft of business secrets” and “uphold Swiss laws”. He also refused to specify whether the NDB is active in Germany, stating instead that the agency is “active at home and abroad”. Switzerland’s Minister of Defense, Guy Parmelin, who supervises the NDB’s activities, was equally general when asked to discuss the arrest of Daniel M. He said simply that he and other Swiss government officials had to “protect [the NDB’s] methods and sources”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 April 2017 | Permalink