House speaker quits all company directorships

Peter Hess (left) and his Christian Democratic party president Philipp Staehelin Keystone

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Peter Hess, is to resign all his company directorships at the end of May. His announcement comes after it was revealed he was a director of several firms based in off-shore tax havens.

This content was published on May 16, 2001

Hess made the announcement at a press conference on Wednesday following mounting pressure on him to resign as speaker of the house. He is on the boards of 48 companies.

Hess said he was severing his ties with the companies out of respect for parliament, but added that he did not believe his position as speaker was incompatible with his private interests. He made clear that the move was intended to demonstrate that his political mandate was his highest priority.

"Considering my responsibility as speaker of the house and in order to honour the dignity of such a position, I have decided to resign from all my mandates on company boards," he said.

A campaign for Hess's dismissal, led by the tabloid newspaper "Blick", has been calling for his resignation from parliament on the grounds that he failed to disclose his involvement with the companies before taking up his position as speaker.

The pressure on him has been mounting since it became known that he was on the boards of three firms, based in Panama and the Virgin Islands. Hess said on Wednesday that a probe he had requested into those firms had not turned up any irregularities.

Hess's decision to resign his directorships comes just days after he announced he was to step down from the boards of the three companies as well as another based in Liechtenstein.

He admitted at the weekend that he should have resigned his directorships before accepting the position of speaker, which is regarded as Switzerland's highest political post.

On Monday, the Liechtenstein company of which Hess was a director was accused of being linked to the funding scandal surrounding Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party of former chancellor, Helmut Kohl.

Hess denied any knowledge of the affair, and resigned from the board immediately.

His business interests first hit the headlines last February, when it was revealed that he was on the board of British American Tobacco, which was accused of encouraging cigarette smuggling in the early 1990s. Hess resigned as soon as his links with the company became known.

swissinfo with agencies

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