Switzerland has fallen to 11th place in the corruption index of Transparency International (TI). The non-governmental organisation, which acts as a watchdog, criticised Switzerland's anti-corruption laws as insufficient.
The TI corruption index, published annually, classifies 90 countries according to public perceptions of the level of corruption in the civil service.
Switzerland, placed 9th last year, has fallen to 11th in this year's ranking.
Nigeria is considered the most corrupt, according to TI, and Finland the "cleanest", followed by Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden and Canada.
Officials at TI's Swiss branch said on Wednesday that Switzerland's position was misleading because not all areas of corruption are covered by the index.
It said Switzerland was particularly prone to corruption because of its many unofficial networks, such as those established during school and military service.
It also highlighted recent money laundering scandals and local cases of economic crime.
Recent statistics have shown that in canton Zurich, for instance, investigations against civil servants accused of corruption rose from 48 in the period 1985 to 1989 to 236 in 1995 to 1999.
Swiss corruption experts recently warned that bribery within the private sector was rising much faster than corruption in the civil service. It said companies were more often bribing their partners to gain contracts, for instance.
TI Switzerland has called for tougher measures against private sector corruption.
It says Switzerland should follow other countries in introducing laws that hold enterprises collectively responsible for criminal acts. At present, only individuals can be charged.
Parliament is due to debate a bill on introducing such a law, but business is strongly opposed to it.
TI also wants private enterprises begin an awareness campaign to combat corruption within their own ranks.
by Markus Haefliger
In compliance with the JTI standards