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Customs report a fall in drugs smuggling

Cocaine seizures dropped by 100kg last year Keystone

Swiss customs saw a drop in the number and volume of drug smuggling cases in 2005, the Federal Customs Office annual smuggling report reveals.

The most commonly smuggled items were food – mostly meat, cheese, fruit and vegetables, and alcohol.

Swiss customs officers uncovered 3,192 cases of drug smuggling last year, 240 fewer than in the previous year, said the Customs Office on Tuesday.

The overall volume of drugs seized also fell significantly. Cocaine seizures dropped 100kg to 167kg, while the heroin haul sank from 97kg to 57kg.

However, 2005 was a bumper year for cannabis smuggling, with customs stopping almost twice as much of the drug as in 2004 at 296kg. Greater quantities of ecstasy, LSD and amphetamines were also found.

Contraband clothes, watches and jewellery made up 16 per cent of cases. Cigarette smuggling also featured at a low level in 2005, which the Customs Office said was most likely due to the 50-centime increase in the price of cigarettes introduced in October 2004.

According to Rudolf Dietrich, head of the Customs Office, this tax has brought in about SFr100 million ($77 million) less than expected.

Illegal entry

Border guards arrested 5,471 people who were trying to enter the country illegally, 470 fewer than in 2004. Most of these arrests were made in the Geneva region and border guards also discovered 1,600 false identity documents.

In total, customs handed around 37,000 people over to the police in 2005, 1,700 more than in the previous year and the highest number ever.

Of the 9,000 cases of smuggling identified, a quarter involved food and drink. In the single biggest case, customs officers discovered an undeclared load of 170 tons of meat and cheese, valued at more than SFr2 million.

Smuggling fines generated more than SFr9 million in 2005, with a further SFr160 million made in additional charges.

Last year, customs paid particular attention to the import of art and confirmed that a certain proportion of invoices is systematically falsified to reduce the VAT bill. However, it is difficult for customs officers to prove that a declared price is too low.

The customs service is also in the process of cutting staff by ten per cent over five years. By 2008, it will employ 200 fewer people than at present.

swissinfo with agencies

Drugs seized by customs in 2005:
Cocaine, 167kg (269kg in 2004)
Heroin, 57kg (97kg in 2004)
Cannabis, 296kg (157kg in 2004)
Khat, 1,322kg (1,235kg in 2004)
Ecstasy, LSD and amphetamines, 190,400 doses (180,300 in 2004)
37,000 people were handed over to police and 5,471 arrested for illegal entry

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