In January 2023, RUAG received an inquiry from the German company Rheinmetall regarding the purchase of the 96 Leopard 1 A5 battle tanks stored in Italy. In an initial clarification, also in January 2023, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) gave a positive informal assessment of the business option. Based on this information, RUAG, as a public limited company organized under private law, initiated the business preparations on its own.
The contract negotiations with Rheinmetall were conducted in an absolutely transparent manner. In concrete terms, this means that both parties were informed at all times that the contract would only become valid once a legally binding approval had been granted. Subject to this reservation, RUAG and Rheinmetall signed the corresponding contract on February 13, 2023. From the outset, RUAG explicitly drew Rheinmetall's attention to potential hurdles in the approval process and included corresponding reservations in the contract.
After the contract was signed on February 13, 2023, RUAG comprehensively fulfilled its duty of disclosure and informed the DDPS. RUAG also submitted a preliminary clarification to SECO. This preliminary clarification revealed that the sale of said war material was not possible under the Regulation regarding measures in connection with Ukraine. The ordinary procedure provides that after these preliminary clarifications, which are not legally binding, a formal request can be submitted to SECO. This further step was provided for in the contract between RUAG and Rheinmetall, so that both parties would have final legal certainty. In addition, RUAG was aware that the decision on the whereabouts of the battle tanks, irrespective of whether they are sold, not sold or liquidated, should be taken at the political level.
On June 28, 2023, the Swiss Federal Council decided that it would reject RUAG's request to sell 96 Leopard 1 A5 battle tanks for use in Ukraine. RUAG fully accepts this decision and is pleased that the situation has thereby been clarified.
RUAG has at all times decided independently and exclusively in consultation between the CEO and the Board of Directors. The DDPS was never involved in the decision-making process, but was informed about the purchase request and subsequently about the contract, which was signed with reservations. The aforementioned business activities had no influence on the decision of former CEO Brigitte Beck to leave the company.
In 2016, the then RUAG Defense Ltd purchased decommissioned Leopard 1 A5 battle tanks from the Italian army. About 10 percent of the spare parts are compatible with the Leopard 2. In addition, the Leopard 1 A5 platform is still in service in Europe in various versions.