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Corruption Thousands of Swiss firms are unregistered

man behind an audit form

Unlike this company being audited in Zurich, many Swiss firms are falling under the radar.

(© KEYSTONE / CHRISTIAN BEUTLER)

About 13,000 companies are not listed in the commercial register – a serious problem, notes the Swiss Federal Audit Office. Increased cooperation with the tax authorities could be a solution. 

On Wednesday the office published an evaluationexternal link of how Switzerland has been combating corruption over the past decade – since it’s been following a recommendation of the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECOexternal link). 

The report found that in addition to the unregistered firms, other company entries had not been updated in decades. 

“In certain cantons there are listings that haven’t changed since the 19th century. That cannot be,” Michel Huissoud of the audit office told Swiss public television, SRFexternal link

At the start of the year, there were nearly 630,000 entries listed in the trade register; now, some 13,000 firms or associations are missing. 

As SRF reported on Thursday, the Federal Office of the Commercial Register struggles to enforce the applicable laws. “It’s just not that easy to chase after all of these companies,” office director Nicholas Turin told SRF. However, many of these could be independent contractors who don’t know that they need to register as soon as they have an annual turnover of more than CHF100,000 ($100,692). 

+ Seven months ago, the Swiss government launched an online portal to reduce bureaucracy for businesses 

The Swiss branch of the NGO Transparency Internationalexternal link is calling on the federal authorities to create an “effective and independent” anti-corruption body. 

“A federal agency that effectively combats corruption needs a comprehensive mandate from the government and the necessary resources, which the Federal Council has unfortunately failed to provide,” said Transparency International Switzerland President Eric Martin in a statement released in responseexternal link to the audit office’s report. 

In its evaluation, the Swiss Federal Audit Officeexternal link noted that a new model is essential. In addition, more cooperation with the cantonal tax authorities could help flag up firms failing to comply with the law.

SRF/swissinfo.ch/sm

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