The Italian finance minister, Ottaviano del Turco, has proposed a meeting with his Swiss counterpart, Kaspar Villiger, to settle a dispute between the two countries on judicial co-operation.
Del Turco has repeatedly accused Switzerland of failing to help Italy with an investigation into a cigarette smuggling ring allegedly organised from Switzerland. The profits are also suspected of being laundered through Swiss banks.
"Switzerland must reconsider its attitude towards cigarette smuggling," Del Turco told Swiss Italian television on Thursday. "It is not a problem that is of no concern to Switzerland; all of Europe must help Italy in the fight against smuggling."
The smuggling ring makes its profits by avoiding the high duties on cigarettes levied by most European countries. But tax evasion is not a crime in Switzerland.
However, southern Italy has seen an increase in crime due to cigarette smuggling, and Del Turco said the problem was becoming wider.
"We are not just talking about tax evasion. Cigarette smugglers are also bringing drugs, weapons and illegal immigrants from Montenegro to Italy," said the Italian minister.
A Swiss finance ministry spokesperson said on Friday Del Turco's statement was unusual, but if he were to send a formal invitation, it would be accepted. No meeting between the two ministers is planned for the moment.
Switzerland has in the past rejected Italian allegations that it has been slow in co-operating with the Italian justice authorities.
swissinfo with agencies
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