The Strange Methods of the Geneva Lawyers in the Service of the Confederation

On November 7, 2023, Xplain staff received an email invitation to provide input from the Geneva study.Keystone

A Geneva law firm conducted an administrative investigation on behalf of the confederation. He sometimes used surprising methods.

Henry Habegger / ch media

The judgment of the Federal Criminal Court appeals was clear: No, federal prosecutors did not have permission to give Geneva law firm Oberson Abels access to criminal investigation files.. The decision was made last December. The research does not, in fact, constitute “authority” as required by the Code of Criminal Procedure, and sufficient interest has not been shown for third parties to access the files.

Mandated by the Confederacy, Oberson Abels conducts an administrative investigation into a “data leak” at the software company Xplain. According to the Federal Department of Finance (FDF), it is investigating “whether the federal administration adequately fulfilled its obligations in the selection, instruction and supervision of Xplain AG, as well as in the cooperation with this company.”

It all started in May 2023. The Play hacking group extracted about 900 gigabytes of confederation and canton data. This sometimes sensitive data was managed by IT company Xplain in the Bernese Oberland and ended up on the Darknet. Xplain provides software solutions in the field of homeland security to various authorities. Since then, the case has been the subject of simultaneous investigations at different levels. And some of them seem to collide with each other.

It's unclear why federal prosecutors agreed to release the files to Oberson's office. One of the lawyers in the study was still working in the ministry until recently, and this may have played a role. Joel Pahud was one of the federal prosecutors who pushed FIFA's shaky procedures forward.

The source claims it could be the mysterious “fifth man” who was between FIFA boss Gianni Infantino and former confederation attorney general Michael Lauber at the Schweizerhof in Bern.

Joel Pahud denies this claim, but he was in any case a close confidant of Olivier Thormann, then head of the economic and financial section of the Confederation Public Prosecution, today a judge in Bellinzona. But that's another story.

In any case, Geneva Oberson's research clearly had difficulty obtaining administrative investigation materials. He used an unconventional method to understand the information.

Madam, do you want to condemn? Confederation?

On November 7, 2023, Xplain staff received an email invitation to provide input from the Geneva study. The email, written in French and signed by Joël Pahud, was not personalized but addressed only to “Madame, Monsieur”.

Interested persons can express themselves by “return email” if they want to answer the questions. A gesture that might make these people happy Whistleblowers denouncing the Confederacy – or someone else.

It is not known who sent this message and what the result was. When contacted, investigators had not yet responded by Thursday. Xplain boss Andreas Lovinger says he was unaware of such a large shipment:

“There was no such request for the company or for me personally”

But this unofficial announcement was preceded by a more official response:

“As a company, we have been formally contacted by the firm of Oberson Abels, but we have exercised our right to voluntarily decline to disclose information in the context of this administrative investigation.”

Andreas Lovinger, Xplain Patron.

The necessary information would in any case already be “substantially” in the possession of the federal administration or already included in other investigations. Subsequently, the Geneva study tried its luck directly with certain employees.

The Federal Council disseminates information about this in the coming weeks

One thing is clear: Oberson's firm is not alone in this case. The Federal Public Prosecutor's Office and the Federal Data Protection Officer are also investigating the same matter. According to the Ordinance on the Organization of Government and Administration (OLOGA), conflicts between different pursuits should be avoided:

“Administrative investigation should not interfere with either criminal investigation or investigation of parliamentary oversight bodies”

Findings and recommendations are expected to be published soon. According to a representative of the Department of Finance, the Federal Council will be informed in the coming weeks to decide on the further implementation of the administrative investigation. The final report should be published immediately. Proceedings by the federal prosecutor's office are still ongoing.

(Translated and adapted from the German by Valentin Zenker)

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Vintage photos of pedestrian crossings in Switzerland:

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Vintage photos of pedestrian crossings in Switzerland:

“Ah, that was the border!” – The photo was taken in May 1957 in Zurich, where a man was almost hit by a car.

Source: Photopress Archive / Bishop

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