Attempt to blackmail Swiss interior minister under investigation

Berset has played a prominent government role during the coronavirus pandemic. Keystone / Anthony Anex

A woman who tried to blackmail Swiss Interior Minister Alain Berset last year has been fined after retracting her claims against him, it has emerged. However, an investigation into the handling of the case in ongoing. 

This content was published on November 24, 2020 - 11:05

The blackmail attempt came to light this weekend when the Weltwoche magazine published a redacted version of the penalty notice issued by the court that fined the blackmailer in September.

Many of the details of the case remain unknown, but it appears that in November 2019 the unidentified woman threatened to make public letters and photographs unless Berset paid CHF100,000 ($110,000).

The payment demand was not met and Berset made a criminal complaint instead.

Interior ministry spokesman Peter Lauener told the Keystone-SDA news agency that the woman’s claims, relating to Berset’s private life eight years ago were “false and defamatory”. Berset’s lawyer said the blackmailer had later retracted her statements.

“As a government minister [Berset] is unfortunately often the victim of criminal activity,” Lauener told the Blick am Sonntag newspaper. “Federal Councillor Berset cannot be blackmailed,” he added.

Berset, whose ministry covers health, culture and pensions, has been one of the most prominent government ministers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Swiss Attorney General’s (OAG) office said it had deleted data from the blackmailer’s computer relating to the case. The federal prosecutor said this was carried out as a matter of routine rather than as a favour to Berset. An investigation into the handling of the case, in particular the deleting of data on the woman's computer, has been opened by the oversight body of the Office of the Attorney General.

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