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Swiss customs flex new muscles

Swiss custom officers are getting tough Keystone Archive

An armed customs team - the first of its kind - is to be set up to help fight smuggling and cross-border crime in Switzerland.

Its main task will be to support regional customs investigations, but the team will also work closely with international partners.

The weapon-carrying unit, which is due to be launched in 2006, will contain 18 members.

Walter Pavel of the Federal Customs Administration told swissinfo that the team was needed because of an increase in contraband in recent years.

“Cross-border criminality is better organised; gangs are operating with less scruples on the international level, for example in cigarette-smuggling,” Pavel said.

Swiss customs are currently experiencing tough times. As part of a cost-cutting measure, the administration is to shed 450 jobs.

Bridge the gap

At the same time, investigations have become more complex, but Pavel says the new team can bridge the gap.

“[Because] we have to reduce personnel, the new troop will focus on big smuggling cases and [will help] avoid ‘bottlenecks’ in investigation capacities,” said Pavel.

As the new team will be carrying weapons, it will be able to assist unarmed colleagues investigating dangerous cases.

It will also play a part in the fight against illegal migration and traffic in human beings.

The team will also train border guards and other colleagues in investigatory techniques.


A new customs unit will take up arms in 2006.

The 18-strong team will be armed and will support colleagues in dangerous investigations.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR