Colombia discredited Swiss mediator to dump him: Swiss TV

A Swiss mediator accused by the Colombian government
of paying money to the FARC merely opened up channels of
communication, Swiss television says.

Jean-Pierre Gontard was mandated by the foreign ministry in 2001 to
act as an intermediary between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (Farc) and the Basel pharmaceutical company Novartis, to
achieve the release of two Novartis employees kidnapped by the
guerrilla group.

An investigation by French-language
television to be broadcast on Thursday found documentary evidence that
Novartis had indeed subsequently paid a ransom of 2.5 million dollars
in 2001.

The programme says the Colombian authorities were aware
of the deal, and that the second in command of the country’s police
service was present at the release of the two men who had been seized
the previous year.

Gontard admits making a “great mistake” in
asking the guerrillas not to mention the name of Novartis in any
correspondence. Instead they referred to it as “Gontard’s money”.

Novartis has not commented on the report “for legal reasons”, the producer told an advance media showing of the film.

In
July 2008 Colombia announced that it had found on the computer of a top
Farc leader indications that Gontard had transported $500,000 for the
rebels, an accusation which Gontard and the Swiss foreign ministry
strenuously denied.

The television programme suggests that the
Colombian government made the accusations in an attempt to discredit
all mediators, both local and foreign, and to attack “European
interference” in its dealings with the Farc.

Colombia later ended all Swiss mediation efforts with hostage takers. (Swissinfo.ch)

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