The Federal Office of Transport (OFT) has launched criminal investigations against the public transport companies BLS and Bus Ostschweiz. Both are alleged abuses of subsidies. After the PostBus affair in 2018, other cases of excessive subsidies have been identified. After two court judgments clarified who has jurisdiction to conduct any criminal proceedings, the OFT, as funding authority, has taken the necessary action, it said in a statement on Thursday.
As part of the preliminary investigations against the Bernese company BLS and the Saint-Galloise “Bus Ostschweiz”, the OFT “will begin by examining the possible facts constituting an offense as well as the persons concerned”, according to the press release. The presumption of innocence applies.
Reimbursement and procedure
In cases where there are indications of punishable acts, a criminal procedure must be carried out in addition to reimbursement, specifies the OFT. This procedure must make it possible to confirm or invalidate the suspicions.
For the record, in early 2020, it was revealed that BLS had not budgeted for half-price subscription sales in the Libero community for several years and had thus received excessive compensation. The company had to repay 43.6 million francs in subsidies to the OFT, with the key, the departure of the director.
Bus Ostschweiz AG is said to have sold fully depreciated buses to a subsidiary. The latter, according to an earlier statement from the OFT, re-leased the vehicles from 2012 to 2019 to the subsidized parent company at excessive costs.