Novartis: Activists burned house
Novartis blames the group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty for setting the CEO’s holiday home on fire.Vienna -- A massive fire at the Austrian holiday villa of Novartis chief Daniel Vasella was criminal and the handiwork of a British animal protection group, a company spokesman said on Tuesday.
"It was a criminal act," the Novartis spokesman told the Swiss tabloid Blick, adding there was "no doubt" that Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) was behind the arson.
"The situation with SHAC has completely degenerated," he said, adding, "We take the security of our officials very seriously."
Austrian police said the fire was probably started purposely but have not yet confirmed this.
The fire at Vasella's holiday home in the small Tyrolean village of Bach was discovered around 3h30 on Monday by a German tourist, who woke after hearing a muffled bang and saw the neighbouring house in flames, according to the police.
He immediately alerted the fire department and about 100 firefighters were needed to extinguish the flames. Nobody was injured, police said.
Two sides of the villa were seriously burned but the extent of the damage was unknown.
Swiss media reported that Vasella, who was not at the villa at the time of the fire, and his company had been targeted with repeated attacks by the SHAC.
The group, which campaigns against animal testing, is believed to have been responsible for the destruction in late July of Vasella's mother's tomb in the eastern Swiss town of Chur.
They also set company cars on fire and destroyed a Novartis sports facility in eastern France.
An SHAC member, Debbie Vincent, warned of more attacks in an interview to La Tribune daily.
AFP / Expatica