Inquiry to look at possible leak of documents in Berset blackmail case

Swiss Home Affairs Minister Alain Berset, whose portfolio also includes health policy. Keystone / Pablo Gianinazzi

After more details of a blackmail case involving Interior Minister Alain Berset were revealed in the press this week, a special prosecutor is to investigate whether official documents were leaked.

This content was published on September 18, 2021 - 13:08

On Thursday, Weltwoche magazine published new details about the case and claimed that Berset used state resources to deal with what the minister maintains is a private affair.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has now confirmed that a special investigator will be appointed to look into how Weltwoche – which also broke the story last November – got hold of confidential documents linked to the case.

If these documents were leaked by a state body bound to confidentiality, this could amount to a legal violation of official secrecy, the OAG told the Keystone-SDA news agency on Friday.

“It [the investigation] amounts to clarifying this question, as well as the exact circumstances [relating to the documents]”.

The Weltwoche story last November revealed that a former lover of Berset had demanded he pay her CHF100,000 ($107,280) or else she would make public photos and correspondence between them. Berset brought the case to the attention of police, who, after questioning the woman, charged her with blackmail.

This week’s latest story now claims that Berset used state resources to stifle the affair. In particular, he asked his ministry’s secretary-general to look into the case, Weltwoche says; while an elite police unit, normally used for risky operations, was also reportedly dispatched to take the young woman into custody (a “standard procedure”, said a police spokeswoman).

Berset refused to make further clarifications to the media in Bern on Friday, maintaining that he had said everything he needed to say when the initial story was published last November.

Another inquiry into how the public prosecutor’s office handled the young woman’s detainment, including the reported use of the elite police unit, is set to be discussed by a Senate sub-committee at the end of October.

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