Activists torch Novartis CEO's home, steal mother's ashes

The Austrian vacation home of Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella (photo) was set on fire early Monday morning. Austrian police have not announced any conclusive findings, but Novartis spokeswoman Isabel Guerra has revealed that there was a professional fire accelerant found at the scene. According to a CNBC report, an arsonist lit both sides of the front store and set it afire. Vasella has decided to sell the property.

The lodge, located in Bach, Austria, is the latest target in a string of attacks on the CEO, Novartis and its employees. Last week, the graves of Vasella's parents were desecrated. The perpetrators also stole an urn containing his mother's ashes and left the message "Drop HLS Now" on her headstone. HLS is Huntington Life Sciences, a U.K.-based company that offers animal testing services. Novartis maintains that it no longer contracts HLS and has not worked with them for years.

About three weeks ago, graffiti slogans attacking Vasella and Novartis were written on the church in Vasella's village of Risch in central Switzerland and messages have been left on the road near Vasella's home. According to CNBC, one of those messages read, "Vasella is a killer. We are watching you. Death to Vasella. We'll be back." Attacks on company property and the houses and cars of employees have also increased in recent months.

Novartis spokesman Satoshi Sugimoto said the company believes British-based animal rights activists are responsible for all of the attacks. "These groups are against animal testing, which is required in our industry. This is something we try to avoid whenever possible, but it is something we have to do by law," spokesman Satoshi Sugimoto said (as quoted by Reuters).

- here's more from Reuters
- see the AP article
- more from CNBC