Poorer showing for Switzerland in corruption index

Corruption index graphic: Sept 2000 swissinfo.ch

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.

This content was published on September 13, 2000 - 19:55

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.

The president of TI Switzerland, Philippe Lévy, told swissinfo he was confident that businesses shared TI's interest in the matter. "Entreprises that maybe try to gain an edge over a competitor by paying a bribe to a contractor, also realise that this kind of exercise is very costly," he said.

Lévy said he would like to see companies adopt measures including the possibility of taking offenders to court, increased transparency within entreprises, an obligation for employees to adhere to integrity rules, and awareness campaigns.

In the area of public policy, TI Switzerland says the most important issue on the agenda is the introduction of a law that makes companies, as opposed to individuals, liable to prosecution in cases of corruption, money laundering and organised crime.

Switzerland is a signatory to the anti-corruption convention of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and must introduce a company liability act before the year 2002.

Parliament is due to debate a bill on introducing such a law, but business is opposed to the proposed tough version, under which companies are liable before individuals.

TI Switzerland warns that a soft version, where the opposite is true, will only lead companies to seek out scapegoats in cases where they have been found out.

by Markus Haefliger

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