The denial of Kaspar Villiger was clear and it was long. On one and a half A4 pages, the oldFederal Council (FDP) last Wednesday, the CIA files on the crypto affair are wrong – at least with regard to his own role. At the time, as defense minister in the 1990s, he knew nothing about the huge espionage operation by the CIA and the German secret service. “I was not privy to this intelligence operation,” wrote the former Federal Councilor of the newspaper.
But now Villiger’s denials are being questioned. Not as previously through documents from American and German secret services. It is still an open question whether their descriptions are reliable in all parts. The new allegations against Villiger are now in an official Federal Council paper. It is a confidential debate paper that was signed by Federal Councilor Viola Amherd (CVP) and distributed to her government colleagues on December 17, 2019.
This document is the first official source in Switzerland to state that there may have been confidants in the state government in the crypto affair. And it explicitly names Kaspar Villiger’s name.
Then Amherd talks about Villiger
Amherd’s pronunciation paper has a long history. Individual offices within their Defense Department (DDPS) have been in the picture since last summer researching the television program “Rundschau” on Crypto AG. At the end of October at the latest, the head of the department realized how explosive the matter is. The DDPS then initiated its own investigations to clarify the facts. It searched internally for documents and interviewed previous managers. At the beginning of November, the Federal Council also set up a working group with representatives from eight services and official agencies to look for traces of the crypto scandal in other departments as well.
On December 17, Amherd reported to the Federal Council in its debating paper on the status of these investigations. Apparently, she said there were still a lot of unanswered questions. But Amherd was also able to tell her colleagues about an explosive find that she had only found out about 24 hours earlier.
Jean-Philippe Gaudin, director of the federal intelligence service, came to see her the day before. Amherd writes that he has informed them that several documents on Crypto AG have been found in an old archive – and then adds the following sentence: «They (the documents; editor’s note) indicate that the former EMD director K. Villiger was informed. » This sentence is literally in Amherd’s paper; this is confirmed by several, very well-informed sources. The Minister of Defense does not elaborate on the nature and content of the newly found files. But the very fact that Federal Councilor Amherd speaks of Villiger’s co-existence now puts him under considerable pressure.
How is Villiger’s denials from Wednesday to be understood in this light? Is that perhaps the reason for some slightly spongy sentences? For example, to phrase that he had no “detailed” information about the CIA operation? Did Villiger perhaps not have detailed, but at least summary information on the espionage operation?
Villiger disagrees with the CIA
This newspaper confronted Villiger with Amherd’s incriminating statement. In his written answer, the 79-year-old former Federal Council denied any knowledge of the true background of Crypto AG. And he does this even more vehemently than last Wednesday: “I knew the influence of the CIA (on Crypto AG) as little as that of the BND,” writes Villiger. Villiger also writes about the now established fact that the crypto devices were manipulated: “I did not have this information.”
Neither Amherd’s pronunciation paper nor the file find mentioned in it are known to him, Villiger says – and adds: “I would also be interested in knowing more than guesswork.” He announced that he would therefore work unconditionally with the investigative bodies on this matter.
What is in the new files?
Villiger had already admitted on Wednesday that he had spoken about the company to his party colleague Georg Stucky, a former member of the board of directors of Crypto AG, in 1994 – just as it is mentioned in the CIA files. If he remembers correctly, this conversation was about the then ongoing investigation by the federal police into crypto AG’s allegedly manipulated encryption devices – but “not about CIA or BND machinations,” emphasizes Villiger. “You don’t forget something like that and it would have prompted me to raise this in the Federal Council.”
On this point, Villiger diametrically contradicts the CIA files. These say that Villiger was informed by Stucky at the time that Crypto AG was a cover company of the foreign secret services.
Villiger’s new, even more violent denial now raises the question of what exactly is in the files that Amherd’s secret service chief claims to have found. The Department of Defense communication does not comment on this. “Basically, we do not give any information about the content of Federal Council meetings,” she replies and says: “It is out of place to speculate about individual names and documents.” The facts are now being analyzed by former SP federal judge Niklaus Oberholzer. It is to deliver a first report to the Federal Council by the end of June 2020.
Questions about Arnold Koller
But Villiger is not the only former Federal Councilor who makes an appearance in Amherd’s debating paper on the crypto affair. The Minister of Defense mentions a second former magistrate: Arnold Koller, Federal Councilor from 1987 to 1999, first in the Military Department, later in the Department of Justice, member of the CVP and thus a party colleague of Amherds. Amherd emphasizes in her paper that there is no evidence of Koller’s co-existence in the newly found files.
This statement is surprising. Unlike in the Villiger case, no file locations that would burden Koller have become known so far. Koller also does not appear in the CIA and BND documents available to the “Rundschau”.
“But I don’t remember anything else.”Former Federal Councilor Arnold Koller
In general, FDP representatives have so far appeared in the crypto affair – in addition to the politicians Villiger and Stucky, the former intelligence officers Peter Regli and Markus Seiler. Political competition reluctantly exploits this FDP connection: “Now Villiger, Stucky and Regli too,” tweeted Michael Sorg, SP co-general secretary. «What do all the protagonists of the # Cryptoleaks affair have in common? You are a member of the FDP Liberals. » And SVP man Christoph MOrgeli scoffed, also on Twitter, to clarify the crypto affair, there was no need for a parliamentary commission of inquiry, just a party meeting of the FDP,
Arnold Koller is now breaking through this FDP pattern. Why does Amherd mention and relieve him? Why only Koller and not other Federal Council members from that time? Otto Stich (SP), for example, who held the Federal Presidium in 1994 when the federal police were investigating Crypto AG? Or Flavio Cotti (CVP), who, as Secretary of State, may also have been in the know about a secret service cooperation with the United States? Or Adolf Ogi (SVP), who was also a member of the Federal Council at the time and became Villiger’s direct successor in the military department in 1996? Amherd’s paper to the Federal Council does not answer these questions – and neither does its communication office.
Arnold Koller, now 86 years old, did not respond to a request from this newspaper. Earlier in the week, he told CH media newspapers that he knew that there was crypto. “But I don’t remember anything else.”
Created: 2/14/2020, 9:47 PM