Novartis blames animal rights group for fire at chief's villa

5th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

The blaze at Vasella's holiday home in the small Tyrolean village of Bach was discovered around 3:30 am on Monday by a German holidaymaker, who woke after hearing a muffled bang and saw the neighbouring house in flames, according to the police.

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 have said the fire was probably started purposely but have not confirmed this yet.

The blaze at Vasella's holiday home in the small Tyrolean village of Bach was discovered around 3:30 am on Monday by a German holidaymaker, 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 it took about 100 fire-fighters to douse the flames. Nobody was injured, police said.

Two sides of the villa were seriously damaged 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 already been the target of repeated attacks by the SHAC.

This group, which campaigns against animal testing, is believed to have been behind the desecration last week of Vasella's mother's tomb in the eastern Swiss town of Chur.

They also torched company cars 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

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