Nestle loses spying case - Swiss media report

Share this

[Unofficial translation - click here for original article in French]

Le Courrier, 26 January 2013, Saturday

[On the top of the front page]


Nestlé and Securitas lose against ATTAC

A spy hired by Securitas had joined the working group drafting the book Attac contre l’Empire Nestlé [Attac against the Nestlé Empire].

The Civil Tribunal of Lausanne has found Nestlé and Securitas guilty of having spied on ATTAC in the Nestlégate case. In 2003, an agent, acting for the Vevey-based firm, had infiltrated the anti-globalization group.

[At the top of page four]

Nestlé and Securitas found guilty in a civil suit for the infiltration d’ATTAC


• Spied on for several years by the multinational, the ATTAC-Vaud militants will receive compensation.


Unsuccessful in 2009 in criminal court, ATTAC hoped to obtain redress in the civil courts in the case known as Nestlégate. Exactly one year after the case came to court, the verdict has finally been handed down. The Tribunal of the Lausanne district yesterday, in no uncertain terms, found Nestlé and Securitas guilty of spying on the anti-globalization movement. By gathering information “by infiltration of the private sphere” of the ATTAC militants, the two firms were guilty of “unlawful violation of the rights of the person”, as stated in the ruling handed down by Judge Jean-Luc Genillard.

Sara Meylan, the “mole”

The Veyvey-based multinational and the security company must now pay, as compensation, 3,000 francs to each of the nine plaintiffs, who were members of the working group which was infiltrated starting September 2003 by a “mole” hired by Securitas. Under the fictitious name of Sara Meylan, she took part in meetings devoted to the drafting of ATTAC contre l’Empire Nestlé [Attac against the Nestlé Empire] – a book of which she herself wrote a chapter.

In reports addressed directly to Nestlé, the spy detailed the content of these discussions, which took place at the home of the authors. The physical profile of the members of the group was also communicated in detail. At the court hearing, however, Sara Meylan had refuted having examined the ideological leanings of the authors. The mole continued her mission until June 2004.

Shortly after the revelation of these actions, in 2008, ATTAC discovered that another Securitas employee, using her real name, was participating in the meetings of the working group Mondialisation et multinationales [Globalization and Multinationals]. Yet Nestlé and Securitas had claimed that they had stopped the infiltration in 2005.

“Great Satisfaction”

The movement welcomed the judgement with “great satisfaction”, adding “Nonetheless, we wish to stress that we remain very critical of certain behavior on the part of the multinational Nestlé throughout the world, in particular regarding its hostile policies toward trade unions and its excessive pumping of water”, ATTAC declared in a written statement.

Besides the compensation for the moral injury incurred, the two companies must together pay 14,000 francs in court costs. “That the judiciary has ordered them to pay for our attorneys shows the full and entire responsibility of Nestlé and Securitas. It is a clear and unambiguous judgement,” said

Janick Schaufelbuehl. The ATTAC militant praised the independence of the judiciary in this regard.

An Appeal is Possible

Contacted, Nestlé wished to avoid “specific comments before receiving the full text of the judge's ruling”. “If it should turn out that a Nestlé employee had acted negligently, we shall take appropriate measures,” was all the Nestlé spokesperson would say.

For its part, Securitas has taken note “that the civil tribunal has partially found in favor of ATTAC. However, this judgement has no influence on the current and future operational activities of the firm.” The company issued a statement continuing to claim that it had “definitively put an end to these observation operations eight years ago. On its own initiative, Securitas had thus long since given up these morally questionable operations...” Securitas reserves the right to appeal the case. “We are waiting to get the written reasoning of the judgement,” said the firms' attorney Gilles Robert-Nicoud.



Redress for the Victims – Finally


The satisfaction of the ATTAC militants is no doubt proportional to the disillusionment triggered by the dismissal of the case in 2009 by the criminal court. Their relief is also to be measured by the uncertainty hovering over the case until the end of this civil suit. In spite of overwhelming proof of the activities of the Securitas moles, the acknowledgement of the violation of personal privacy was in fact far from a foregone conclusion to the case. One may recall that the defense attorneys had worked diligently to present the ATTAC members as potential criminals in order to better justify “the preventive observation” of their activities. They had also declared that owing to their militant commitment, they could not “claim such an extended protection of the private sphere” as an ordinary citizen. These specious arguments obviously did not impress the judge, no more than the criminal dispensation that Nestlé and Securitas had benefited from. If it does not set everything right – and in particular the long-term mental aftermath suffered by the persons spied on in their private lives – the verdict is nonetheless a recognition of the victim status of the ATTAC members. It is also strong reminder of the basic principles of a country governed by law that are freedom of opinion and expression and assembly.