The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Report: Swiss President’s office made illegal leaks to the press

  • By The Swiss Times
  • 16 January 2023
Swiss President Alain Berset’s office has been accused of making illegal leaks of confidential information regarding Covid-19 pandemic measures to the Swiss media.
Report: Swiss President’s office made illegal leaks to the press

Alain Berset began serving as Switzerland’s president just two weeks ago.

Swiss President Alain Berset is in hot water over allegedly passing on confidential information about federal Covid-19 measures to Swiss media house Ringier, according to a bombshell report in Schweiz am Wochenende (SaW).

More on the accusations

Berset, who served as the head of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) during the Covid-19 pandemic, currently holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year. During the pandemic, Berset supervised such measures as a countrywide lockdown, mask mandates, vaccine protocols, and the controversial mobile COVID certificate.

According to the SaW report, Berset’s former head of communications, Peter Lauener, repeatedly and illegally handed over confidential intelligence to Ringier concerning pandemic measures such as vaccine releases and when businesses would be allowed to reopen. Lauener reportedly regularly informed Ringier boss Marc Walder what the seven members of the Federal Council discussed pertaining to Covid measures that would affect Swiss residents and businesses. Ringier is a media conglomerate which owns Swiss publications such as Blick.

A special, federal investigator has already begun working the “Corona leaks” case and has interviewed several people involved, including Berset and Walder, according to SaW. Berset, so far, has denied knowing anything about Lauener transmitting confidential information nor any sort of arrangement with Ringier.

As for Lauener, he was put in jail after his questioning. The judge assigned to the case, Peter Marti, made the decision based on strong suspicions of collusion with various parties involved in the case.

Report: Swiss President’s office made illegal leaks to the press

Berset falsely told the public that the Covid vaccines reduced the contagiousness of the virus.

Berset responds

Several hours after the report was published on Saturday Berset appeared on Swiss public television RTS’s “Forum” interview program. Berset confirmed that a criminal investigation was in progress, but said he was the subject of it.

“Imagine the situation. I would have to comment on illegal leaks and I must say, furthermore, quite scandalous, while a criminal procedure, which is not directed against me, is in progress? But what world do we live in? I can’t do that,” he said. Berset declined to comment on the specifics, saying that it interferes with the justice department.

“The rule of law must be able to function. There are procedures in this domain. Let justice tell us whether things have been done correctly or not,” he told RTS.

Report: Swiss President’s office made illegal leaks to the press

Berset headed up such decisions as locking down national borders, implementing mask mandates and closing businesses during the pandemic.

Critics: How can we trust our president?

“It is now difficult for Alain Berset to maintain credibility,” said Balthasar Glättli, the President of the Green political party, when he appeared on RTS the following evening. If Berset was involved in or even knew about the illegal leaks, his actions are “harmful to the state,” Glättli added.

“It will certainly not strengthen his position as President of the Confederation, which is bad in the crisis situation we are experiencing now,” he continued.

For some members of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the actions are enough to warrant Berset’s resignation, even if it is highly unusual for Switzerland.

Berset should “ask how much credibility he and Switzerland are willing to lose for him to remain the President of the Confederation,” Valais SVP member Jean-Luc Addor told RTS. It is simply “the case of too much,” Addor added.

Report: Swiss President’s office made illegal leaks to the press

Berset says he has no knowledge of the illegal leaks, but the case is still open.

Nothing new for Berset

The case comes at a highly political moment as it is an election year. Even if Berset is not found guilty, critics say the accusations weaken his reputation and that of the Social Democratic Party.

Berset has already been the subject of several scandals. In 2019, a former lover of Berset’s attempted to blackmail him on the threat of publishing private letters and photographs. Over the summer he was arrested mid-flight by French military for flying over a restricted area in his private plane. And most recently, a Swiss banker filed criminal charges against Berset for making false statements surrounding Covid-19 vaccines.

According to that lawsuit, in October 2021 Berset went onto a national television show during prime time viewing hours and announced that those who have the Covid-19 vaccine cannot spread the virus. He said (in French) “With the certificate, you can show you are not contagious.”

But, a Swiss study published nearly three months before Berset’s statement has proven otherwise. The study was published August 3, 2021 and led by Virginie Masserey, head of infection control and vaccines at the FOPH. Masserey and her team of researchers found that the vaccine did not reduce the contagiousness of Covid-19, even if vaccinated people were not showing Covid-19 symptoms.

Berset’s false assertion was particularly controversial considering that the Swiss population just weeks later voted on whether to extend the use of the mobile Covid Certificate; Switzerland voted in favor of keeping it and it remained in place through mid-February of this year. Days after Berset’s statement, Masserey announced she was leaving the FOPH.

That case is still ongoing.

This article may be freely shared and re-printed, provided that it prominently links back to the original article.

 

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