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Swiss PostBus faces lawsuit in Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein transport companies are claiming CHF35 million ($38.7 million) in damages against Switzerland’s state-owned PostBus over alleged unfair business practices.

A legal complaint has been filed with the Liechtenstein Public Prosecutor’s Office and the supervisory authority of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), according to the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.

The Liechtenstein transport firms accuse PostBus, known for its alpine network of distinctive yellow buses, of having secured bus routes in the principality thanks to cross-subsidies from slush funds in Switzerland. They are seeking a full investigation.

In 2010 PostBus’s subsidiary in Liechtenstein, located between Switzerland and Austria, was awarded a ten-year contract in the principality worth CHF160 million.

A PostBus spokesman has rejected the claim for compensation, the NZZ wrote on Sunday.

Fraud scandal

This comes after the Federal Office of Police (Fedpol) announced last week that it would press charges against six people in connection with a wider PostBus fraud scandal that has been rumbling on.

Fedpol said on Thursday it was indicting the former finance director of Swiss Post – PostBus’s parent company – as well as five former officials from the bus company. The six are accused of having misled the Federal Office of Transport as to the amount of profit recorded by the operator, which runs a nationwide network of routes and is a subsidiary of the state-owned postal service.

The scandal first broke following an audit by the transport office in February 2018, which found that between 2007 and 2015 manipulated PostBus accounts had led to payments of millions in excessive subsidies. The case led to the resignation of Swiss Post CEO Susanna Ruoff, as well as the dismissal of the entire PostBus management. In September 2018, PostBus agreed to hand back CHF205.3 million to local and federal authorities.

In June 2019 CarPostal France, the French bus subsidiary belonging to Swiss PostBus, was forced to settle an unfair competition case for €6.2 million (CHF6.6 million). PostBus was found to have pumped millions of illegal subsidies to CarPostal France to allow it to undercut rival companies’ prices and win routes in France. PostBus hid these payments and in turn claimed large federal and cantonal subsidies in Switzerland. PostBus later withdrew from France following the subsidies scandal.