Over the weekend the newspaper Schweiz am Sonntag revealed that the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), a government agency, made a large payment to the Clinton Foundation, at a politically delicate time when Switzerland was in the middle of difficult discussions over Swiss banking activities related to US citizens.
In February 2011, the US Justice ordered the arrest of four Credit Suisse staff, before starting criminal investigations against numerous banks. This was the beginning of rising US pressure on the Swiss Federal Council to force Swiss banks to release customer data. According to Schweiz am Sonntag, SDC paid CHF 484,000 to the Clinton Health Access Initiative, between September 2011 and August 2013, as funding for a programme to reduce mother and child mortality in Liberia.
The Clinton Foundation is connected to the then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who was an important US contact person during the banking dispute.
According to the newspaper, in the summer of 2011, the Swiss president at the time, Micheline Calmy-Rey, said that she had a direct link to Clinton. SDC experts consider it plausible that Calmy-Rey and the Federal Council might have pursued political goals with the donation.
Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar are among the Foundation’s patrons.
In the wake of Trump’s presidential success, the possibility of further investigations into the Foundation’s activities cannot be excluded.
Speaking to the newspaper, a professor of international relations at the University of Bern, said the suggestion that the SDC made the donation for non-aid purposes is questionable, given the agency’s expertise in development aid. Others described it as questionable and politically awkward. Former Swiss diplomat and HSG lecturer Paul Widmer told the paper that as a neutral country, with a long-term view, it was not wise to make a donation to the foundation of a former president. There are enough other options.
The SDC is not alone. UBS made headlines in 2015 when the Wall Street Journal reported that by the end of 2014, UBS had made total donations of US$ 600,000 to the Clinton Foundation.
One Swiss government press officer emphasised that the SDC had no further operational or financial links to the Clinton Foundation, stating: “Switzerland has no hidden agenda and does not use development cooperation for political purposes.”
According to 24 Heures, some Swiss politicians reacted strongly. Carlo Sommaruga (PS) said “I am very surprised by these revelations”, while Roland Büchel (UDC/SVP) demanded an explanation. Luzi Stamm (UDC/SVP) described the affair as “very problematic”, pointing a finger at Micheline Calmy-Rey. Because she was abroad and hadn’t read the accusations, Micheline Calmy-Rey, declined to respond.
Others called for calm. Claude Béglé (PDC/CVP), who had taken part in the Clinton Global Initiative several years ago said, personally, I don’t think it was corrupt. The SDC has targets and decided that the Clinton Foundation was the best placed organisation to provide aid in this area.