The Swiss federal prosecutor, Valentin Roschacher, on Saturday called for the tightening of Swiss laws on cigarette smuggling. He said international pressure on Switzerland to strengthen its laws were "not totally unfounded".This content was published on January 13, 2001 - 15:50
Roschacher criticised the fact that cigarette smuggling was not treated as a crime under the Swiss penal code.
"We should not and we must not allow Mafia groups to profit from holes in Swiss legislation," he said in a speech to army officers in Zurich. Illegal profits of billions of francs were being made, he added.
Roschacher said the pursuit of criminals in other countries was often made more difficult because Switzerland failed to provide legal assistance, or only did it slowly.
Cigarette smuggling is treated as a customs violation rather than a crime in Switzerland, which means the Swiss authorities cannot comply with most requests for judicial assistance from other countries.
The issue came to the fore last year after a high-profile smuggling case in the southern canton of Ticino which involved organised crime in Italy. The Italian finance minister strongly criticised Switzerland at the time for its failure to provide legal aid in the case.
Cross-border crime is also likely to be at the centre of discussions between the European Union and Switzerland on ways of increasing their bilateral ties. The EU has insisted that Switzerland do more to clamp down on cross-border crime before negotiations continue on a new set of bilateral treaties.
Roschacher said it was important that fighting crimes like cigarette smuggling did not stop at Swiss borders. He said this was particularly important for money laundering, which he described as the "Achilles heel" of organised crime.
Roschacher said one of his main tasks as federal prosecutor would be to tackle international organised crime and to step up cooperation between Switzerland and other countries.
"It is intolerable that international cooperation is better among organised crime syndicates than between the authorities which are tracking them down," he said.
He added that the keys to combating organised crime were well-defined laws, as well as an efficient, rapid and professional mechanism for enforcing laws.
swissinfo with agencies
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