On 24 and 25 January 2012, the multinational food-industry corporation Nestlé and the Swiss private security firm Securitas will be in court in Lausanne, Switzerland, defending themselves against a civil suit for spying on the “anti-globalization” movement ATTAC. This trial, which has been delayed for a long time, will finally lift the veil of secrecy that has been draped over this spying scandal.
Nestlé and Securitas are accused of illegal surveillance and violations of privacy of ATTAC and its members. The charges were filed after Télévision Suisse Romande revealed on 12 June 2008 that a group of ATTAC members in Canton Vaud, who were working on a book on Nestlé’s policies, had been infiltrated and spied on by a Securitas employee on behalf of Nestlé. The woman joined the ATTAC group in 2003 under the false name “Sara Meylan”, attended working meetings (sometimes in the homes of members), and prepared detailed reports on them for Nestlé. As a member of the group, she had access to internal information, and to all the research by the authors, and to their sources and contacts, both in Switzerland and abroad.
On 26 September 2008, the plaintiffs denounced to the examining magistrate another Securitas spy, who was still active in ATTAC in 2008 under her real name. Nestlé and Securitas had claimed initially that the spying had been ended with the departure of “Sara Meylan” in June 2004. When this second secret agent was discovered, the companies said that this agent had not written any more confidential reports for Securitas and Nestlé since 2005.
The criminal proceedings were dropped on 29 July 2009 after a faulty investigation. The Canton examining magistrate at the time accepted the statements by Nestlé and Securitas and gave as one reason for dismissing the case the three-year statute of limitation of the Data Privacy Act – although the second Nestlé-Securitas agent had still been active in ATTAC in 2008!
Now the civil proceedings will come to trial on 24-25 January 2012. The trial is open to the public, and is thus a unique opportunity to shed light on the activities of Nestlé and Securitas.
We were shocked to learn that Nestlé is being sued in Switzerland for surveillance of the organization ATTAC, which has written a critical book about the negative effects of Nestlé‘s activities.
Nestlé had ATTAC infiltrated by at least two agents of the private security firm Securitas over a period of several years. The agents, one of them under the false name “Sara Meylan”, joined the ATTAC group concerned, attended their meetings, and prepared detailed reports for Nestlé. By means of their access to internal information they had access to all research, sources, and contacts in Switzerland and abroad.
When Nestlé president Brabeck was asked by the Swiss human-rights organization Multiwatch at the 2010 annual general meeting what Nestlé had done to stop this spying, and whether he could guarantee that Nestlé was no longer engaging in such activities, he answered evasively that surveillance and infiltration were not Nestlé policy. The year before, he justified Nestlé’s activities by the absurd accusation that ATTAC was a violent organization, and Nestlé needed to protect itself.
We are indignant about this infringement of freedom of organization and speech and of the right to privacy by Nestlé in Switzerland. We would like to know whether Nestlé is continuing its surveillance of organizations that defend human rights. If so: what organizations are involved? What is Nestlé’s justification for these activities, and what is your intention in doing so?
Thank you in advance for your views on this matter.
Nestlé, the world’s largest food-industry corporation, can pay for armies of lawyers, drag out trials in Switzerland, and blackmail the media with advertising boycotts. ATTAC Switzerland is a grass-roots democratic movement that lives on the commitment of volunteers, and has little money to spend. In the trial against Nestlé, ATTAC depends on support – both moral and financial.