Statement about ransom payments: does Moritz Leuenberger put Swiss people in danger abroad?

PublishedFebruary 9, 2021, 1:01 pm

Switzerland paid kidnappers money to free hostages: With this statement Moritz Leuenberger breaks a taboo. The former Federal Council regrets his statement.

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“If a hostage is released, it has mostly been paid”: Moritz Leuenberger caused indignation with this statement.


  • Moritz Leuenberger regrets statements he made in an interview with “NZZ am Sonntag”.

  • He openly admitted that Switzerland had paid a ransom in the event of hostages being taken.

  • Politicians and experts are outraged by the statements.

Former Federal Councilor Moritz Leuenberger regrets his faux pas and withdraws his statements about ransom payments in Switzerland. “If my statements gave the impression that the Federal Council ever paid a ransom to buy hostages, I expressly regret it,” says Leuenberger when asked by the Tamedia newspapers.

The explosive quotes of the 74-year-old were in the «NZZ on Sunday»Printed. The topic was “Lies in Politics”. Leuenberger was asked in which case the Federal Council had not told the truth, to which he replied: “We have always denied that we had paid ransoms for the release of hostages” and: “If a hostage is released, it has mostly been paid.”

This was kept secret because Switzerland wanted to prevent imitators and further hostage-taking. However, this is not an informal attitude, it has become official in the Switzerland’s counter-terrorism strategy set. Leuenberger has broken a taboo.

Shocked politicians

Politicians and experts are not taken with the openness of the old Federal Council. The former Federal Council would have been better off keeping silent, says FDP National Councilor and member of the Foreign Policy Commission Christa Markwalder.

Long-time Swiss top diplomat Paul Widmer agrees: “With this statement Moritz Leuenberger undermines the credibility of current Swiss politics,” he told the Tagesanzeiger. Terrorism expert Peter Neumann, a professor at King’s College in London, speaks of an open secret when it comes to ransom payments, but it makes sense “that they don’t openly admit this so as not to create additional incentives.”

Official secret violated?

According to the lawyer and Aargau FDP Councilor of States Thierry Burkart, there may even have been a violation of official secrecy, which must be checked by the law enforcement authorities. If necessary, an application would have to be made to the competent parliamentary commissions for the waiver of immunity, says Burkart to the «Look». He finds it reprehensible that a former Federal Councilor accepts that Swiss citizens are endangered abroad.

Leuenberger is remorseful in view of the criticism. Although he approved the interview with Switzerland on Sunday, in retrospect he considers his statements to be “awkward”.

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