Swiss stage raids in probe of defense deals with Putin links
GENEVA (AP) — Swiss federal authorities searched house and seized documents Thursday following claims by state-owned defense contractor Ruag of possible criminal wrongdoing, reportedly in connection with allegations about shady business practices and bribery linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s entourage.
The Swiss attorney general’s office said only that it opened a case for possible criminal mismanagement, misconduct in office, and violations of a law governing war material. Documentation and data storage devices were seized in the searches.
The Swiss daily Handelszeitung reported the prosecutors are investigating secretive business deals and possible bribery payments in connection with arms deals to Putin’s entourage.
Handelszeitung reported Swiss businessmen including the current chief of Julius Baer private bank in Moscow and a top executive of Ruag Amnotec, Ruag’s ammunition division, had delivered handguns and sniper rifles worth several million dollars to bodyguards of the Russian leader. They allegedly put the deals on private receipts without their employers knowing and cashed in on millions in commissions.
The report said Swiss businessmen were involved in equipping Putin’s helicopter fleet with special “observation balls” that can identify targets in daylight or dark, in a deal worth 15 million euros ($18.5 million). Bribery payments in that deal allegedly went to a subsidiary of state-owned nuclear energy group Rosatom and possibly employees of federal protection service FSO, which guards Putin and some other high-ranking officials.
“Ruag learned through its internal whistleblower system of allegations that a senior manager in sales was engaged in unauthorized business transactions outside his employment at Ruag involving both Ruag products as well as products of competitors,” the aerospace and defense contractor said. “This represents a serious violation of internal RUAG policies and compliance rules.”
The company said had fired an employee Thursday in connection with the case, and declined to comment further.
The Handelszeitung report said Russian anti-corruption authorities were also investigating.