Nestlé /Attac / Securitas : legal complaint against X

Press Release Friday 13th June 2008

The Temps Présent programme of the Swiss francophone television network (Télévision suisse romande), shown on Thursday, June 12th, 2008 at 20.00, revealed that the transnational corporation, Nestlé, had hired a private security company, Securitas, to spy on the members of a working group from Attac in the canton of Vaud (Switzerland), who were preparing a book about Nestlé (Attac contre l’Empire Nestlé, 2004). This was a piece of scientific research, carried out on the basis of documents which were accessible in the public domain, with the aim of studying the functioning and global reach of this transnational. This espionage lasted for at least a year, from summer 2003 until summer 2004.

Using a false identity, a Securitas agent first infiltrated a working group from Attac (Vaud) that focussed on transnationals in general, then infiltrated a subgroup made up of seven individuals who were working on a book about Nestlé. By means of an email list in particular, this agent also had direct access to all the research, sources, and contacts in Switzerland and abroad which were involved in this work and in the campaign which followed its publication. The Securitas agent also went to the private homes of several of the book’s authors to attend meetings during the process. The book dealt specifically with Nestlé’s attitude regarding GM crops and water privatisation but also touched on more sensitive subjects such as the struggles of trade unionists and activists in labour conflicts with Nestlé in many countries where human rights are not respected, such as Colombia.

The Securitas representatives and the police of the Canton of Vaud who were interviewed in the Temps Présent programme referred to the particular circumstances surrounding the G8 summit in Evian in order to justify their activities. In a statement given to the television company, Nestlé also referred to the need to protect its buildings and employees during the G8 summit. The G8 summit took place from 1st – 3rd June 2003. The preparation of the book about Nestlé and the meetings of the working group which was infiltrated by the Securitas agent did not begin until autumn 2003, that is, well after the G8 summit, and the agent’s surveillance continued until summer 2004. Nestlé therefore clearly did not arrange this surveillance in order to protect its buildings but in order to collect information about the ongoing research and about the people who were conducting it.

The Securitas agent regularly reported on these meetings to Securitas, which informed their client, Nestlé. According to the investigation carried out by Temps Présent, the agent even went at least once with the directors of Securitas to Nestlé’s headquarters, where she met with the Head of Security and a staff member who was in charge of the transnational’s communications, in order to give them a detailed account of one of our meetings. Securitas kept the police of the Canton of Vaud informed about this infiltration and about the information it had gathered. The cantonal police did not inform those who were the victims of this scandalous surveillance.

We are revolted by this practice, which overturns the principles of freedom of expression and basic democratic rights. We feel that our personal rights have been violated and we are particularly incensed that this espionage took place with the knowledge of the cantonal police, who did not deem it necessary to inform us that we were the objects of this infiltration. We are also scandalised by the attitude of Nestlé’s management. It goes without saying that the employees of this huge transnational were neither consulted nor informed of the activities of their management. Nestlé took the decision to prevent a group of citizens from undertaking a scientific investigation of its activities without its control; instead control was exercised and information collected by means of infiltration and espionage.

And finally, we condemn the role played by Securitas. This private security company, whose activities traditionally consist of guarding buildings and car parks, accepted a contract to spy on a group of people who in no way represented a threat or a danger, except for the fact that the results of their research activities could not be controlled by the transnational Nestlé.

For these reasons, the authors of the book have decided to file a legal complaint against X.

Translated by Barbara Forbes