Ex-intelligence officer on trial for fraud

Dino Bellasi spent some of the embezzled funds on amassing these weapons Keystone Archive

A former member of the Swiss intelligence service accused of embezzling millions of Swiss francs from the defence ministry has gone on trial, three years after the scandal broke.

This content was published on January 26, 2003 - 21:35

Dino Bellasi allegedly siphoned off nearly SFr8.8 million ($6.5 million), ostensibly for military refresher courses that never took place.

The charges against Bellasi include fraud, embezzlement, document falsification and money laundering, committed while he was balancing the books for the secret service.

The trial in Bern is expected to last three weeks.

Illegal transactions

Since the opening of the trail, Bellasi has chosen to give away little information regarding his financial dealings in the early 1990s.

However, he admitted on Wednesday to illegally withdrawing SFr8.8 million from the Swiss National Bank, although he would not reveal his motives.

Bellasi also refused to comment on his previous accusations - later retracted - that he had been ordered by a former intelligence chief, Peter Regli, to hoard arms and divert funds to set up a secret army.

Shortly after Bellasi's activities came to public attention, police discovered a secret armoury in Bern, containing hundreds of weapons amassed by the former intelligence officer.

Missing money

Just over SFr6 million of the missing money has been traced - Bellasi is thought to have spent the bulk of it on funding a luxurious lifestyle, buying weapons and setting up false companies.

Bellasi has refused to answer questions regarding the whereabouts of the rest of the money - over SFr2 million.

However, he had earlier alleged that missing cash entered the pockets of his superiors - an allegation which has been strenuously denied.

Security shake-up

Reverberations from the scandal led to a shake-up of the secret service in Switzerland.

One of the outcomes saw the intelligence organisation being demilitarised and transformed into a civil body.

The Swiss army is also currently looking into preventing abuse of its system of cash payments to troops.

A judgement in the Bellasi case is expected on February 14.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Dino Bellasi is accused of embezzling SFr8.8 million from the Swiss defence ministry.
Bellasi fomerly worked as an accountant for the Swiss intelligence service.
Following the scandal, the Swiss secret service was demilitarised and transformed into a civil body.

End of insertion
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