Strict security precautions were enforced when the head of Switzerland's largest arms manufacturing company and six of his employees went on trial in Lausanne on Monday (23 November).
Strict security precautions were enforced when the head of Switzerland's largest arms manufacturing company and six of his employees went on trial in Lausanne on Monday (23 November). They are accused of illegally exporting arms, mainly to South Africa.
The chief defendant is Dr. Dieter Buehrle, 48-year-old head of the family-owned Zurich company Oerliken Buehrle. More than 88,700,000 Swiss francs(8,500,00 sterling) are claimed to have been exported illegally since 1963. If found guilty the seven defendants face sentences of up to five years hard labour.
M. Gabrial Lebedinsky, former sales director, admitted in court on Monday (23 November) that he had ordered the illegal export of arms by means of false documents. Dr. Buehrle's lawyer has said that his client, although head of the firm, had no knowledge of the transactions.
The weapons said to have been involved in the illicit deals included anti-aircraft and other guns, air-to-air rockets and ammunition. Israel received arms worth 19,500,000 frances(nearly GBP 2 million) and smaller quantities were sent to Nigeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. the Justice Ministry said.
Because of Switzerland's policy of neutrality, export permits for arms are not granted for countries at war or considered to be potential areas of conflict. During the period in which the alleged illegal exports were made, South Africa, Nigeria and the Middle East came under the ban.