The Italian prosecutor's office in Bari has issued an arrest warrant for 17 suspected cigarette smugglers, including four Swiss. The move comes a week after Italy again asked for Swiss help in fighting the international racket.
One of the four Swiss on Prosecutor Guiseppe Scelsi's list is Franco Della Torre, who received a suspended sentence in the 1980s for his involvement in the money laundering racket, the "Pizza Connection".
In cooperation with the Italian authorities, Swiss justice officials have searched six businesses and three private homes, two of which belong to foreigners based in Switzerland and the other to a Swiss.
A spokesman for the Swiss prosecutor's office, Hansjürg Mark Wiedmer, confirmed that documents had been seized during the raids, although no arrests were made.
Following Italy's request, the raids were carried out in the French-speaking canton of Vaud and the towns of Lugano and Chiasso in canton of Ticino.
The justice authorities in Bari are investigating what they say is a vast smuggling network centred in the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro. They say Switzerland is a conduit for contraband cigarettes.
Italy suspects that Della Torre, who lives in Ticino, is in charge of the illegal traffic in cigarettes. His business and home were both searched.
Della Torre holds the right to import cigarettes from Montenegro, and he is thought to have links to a suspected cigarette smuggler, Gerado Cuomo, who is currently in prison in Ticino.
Last November, the Swiss justice ministry gave the go-ahead for the 54-year-old Cuomo to be extradited to Italy. A former top judge in Ticino, Franco Verda, was arrested last August on corruption charges, for allegedly colluding with Cuomo.
The 17 people on Scelsi's list are also wanted on charges of money laundering.
swissinfo with agencies