The Swiss and Italian governments have agreed to split evenly €13.8 million (SFr16.7 million) confiscated from an organised crime group based in southern Italy, it was announced on Monday.
The Swiss Federal Justice Office said that in 2001 a southern Italian court asked the Swiss authorities for help in criminal proceedings against an unnamed money laundering suspect. The Swiss froze the money the same year.
The suspect was accused of laundering money for the Camorra, the organised crime group based in the Campania region of Italy.
The Italian authorities said he acted for the Casalesi clan that controls a swathe of territory north of Naples. The clan inspired Roberto Saviano’s best-selling book "Gomorrah: Italy's Other Mafia", which became a prize-winning film.
At the time, the Italian authorities said the funds had allegedly been acquired illegally and could have been used in the future to finance serious crimes.
The federal justice office said the Camorra assets were seized from a bank in the city of Lugano in the southern canton of Ticino. Swiss and Italian authorities declined to name the bank.
The office added that that the two nations had agreed the assets seized in their anti-mafia efforts should be split evenly, after the Ticino canton prosecutor and a Swiss federal court approved the transfer of confiscated assets to Italy.
Italy's Justice Ministry, which had asked Switzerland to enforce the seizure, calls it "the most important accord to date" on the sharing of money confiscated in Switzerland.
Switzerland has been an attractive financial market for Italian crime syndicates, with the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta organisation at the forefront in recent years.
According to the Federal Police Office, it appears to have the strongest presence in the country and has been extending its sphere of influence further north.
“The geographical shift towards Switzerland is linked, among other reasons, to the increasing pressure being applied on the mafia by the Italian law enforcement agencies,” fedpol said in its latest annual report.
The Swiss authorities have reacted by strengthening their cooperation with their Italian counterparts, exchanging information and analysing crime trends.
The report said the focus was especially on “asset recovery and developing appropriate investigating methods”. The aim is to gather data on organised crime as well as its structures and prevent such groups from infiltrating the public service and undermining industry.