UK trained secret Swiss force

Richard Norton-Taylor, Guardian, 20 September 1991, page 7

British secret services collaborated closely with an armed, undercover Swiss organisation which formed part of a west European network of "resistance" groups, it was officially disclosed yesterday.

Unknown to the Swiss government, British officials signed agreements with the organisation, called P26, to provide training in combat, communications, and sabotage. The latest agreement was signed in 1987.

The disclosures are made in a report by a magistrate ordered by the Swiss government to investigate the activities of P26 after a parliamentary outcry last year.

The existence of P26, which is in the process of being dismantled, came to light last year following the disclosure of a Europe-wide Gladio network of "stay behind" groups originally set up to organise resistance in the event of a conventional attack by the Warsaw Pact.

P26 was backed by P27, a Swiss secret intelligence agency which built up files on nearly 8,000 "subversives".

The report by the magistrate, Pierre Cornu, was released yesterday by the Swiss defence ministry. It says P26 was without "political or legal legitimacy".

It describes the group's collaboration with British secret services as "intense", with Britain providing valuable know-how.

P26 cadres participated regularly in training exercises in Britain, the report says. British advisers - possibly from the SAS - visited secret training establishments in Switzerland.

The activities of P26, its codes, and the name of the leader of the group, Efrem Cattelan, were known to British intelligence, but the Swiss government was kept in the dark, according to the report.

It says that documents giving details about the secret agreements between the British and P26 have never been found.