Swiss investigate Turkish move to kidnap businessman

Switzerland is investigating an alleged attempt by Turkey to drug and kidnap a Swiss-Turkish businessman as part of a crackdown on the Gülen movement, which Turkey says masterminded a coup attempt in July 2016.

The diplomats planned to stun the unnamed businessman, in his mid-50s, with knock-out drops near Zurich and then abduct him, according to a report in Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger.

One of the suspects has since returned to Turkey, while the other remains at the Turkish embassy in Bern, the newspaper said. The Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the case for political espionage and attempted kidnapping by a foreign state, the newspaper said citing a statement.

Several secret meetings took place outside Zurich in a cemetery and in front of a car garage during 2016, with agents coming together three times with a compatriot who has lived in Switzerland for many years. They wanted to convince the heavily indebted man to administer the drug into the businessman’s food in return for money and a luxury life in Turkey, Tages-Anzeiger said.

Five Turkish representatives showed up at the cemetery meeting, with two remaining in the background. But they were unaware that Swiss Federal Intelligence Officers were watching, the newspaper reported.

The target, married and naturlised in Switzerland for a long time, was to be taken to an unnamed location before being abducted to Turkey.

The Turkish embassy in Bern has not responded to a request to interview the suspects, who are protected by diplomatic immunity. The Swiss government wants to ascertain whether the men had diplomatic immunity at the time of the alleged crime. The probe began in March 2017.

Turkey has launched a crackdown on members of the Gülen movement and other opposition figures since the coup, imprisoning tens of thousands of people under anti-terrorism laws. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government has also applied to Interpol to have suspects abroad arrested, but European Union countries have largely rejected extradition requests because of Turkey’s poor human rights record or lack of evidence.