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Swiss investigate company that spied on the world

Switzerland’s attorney general has initiated criminal proceedings against Crypto, a Zug-based company that was allegedly used for decades by United States and German intelligence services to spy on over 100 countries.

The proceedings, however, are not related to espionage charges but the suspicion of malpractice obtaining export permits for the company’s cryptographic machines.

Swiss public radio SRF announced the development on Wednesday.

Last Friday, the government gave the green light for the attorney general to open criminal proceedings, according to the report.

The suspicion that false or incomplete information had been provided in the export applications originated at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), which filed a criminal complaint against unknown persons at the end of February.

For decades, Crypto supplied foreign governments and armed forces with machinery that was flawed, making it possible to decrypt allegedly secure messages.

SECO says that it would never have issued the permits if it had been aware of the flaw.

Swiss law stipulates that “anyone who intentionally provides incorrect or incomplete information in an application that is decisive for the granting of a permit is liable to imprisonment or a fine of up to CHF 1 million [$1.06 million]”.

In serious cases, however, imprisonment can be up to ten years and a fine of up to five million.

The Crypto affair made headlines in February following investigations by SRF, German television TV ZDF, and US newspaper Washington Post.

The Swiss parliament’s watchdog tasked with overseeing the activities of security and espionage services is conducting its own investigation to clarify who in Switzerland new what and when.