People suspected of belonging to the mafia will no longer be prosecuted merely for membership of an organised crime syndicate, Swiss Federal Prosecutor Michael Lauber said in a media interview on Sunday.
Instead, investigators will have to build a case showing that suspects actively participated in criminal activities within such organisations, he told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper. The change of tack has been prompted by the low likelihood of the Swiss courts prosecuting people solely on the grounds of affiliation to a mafia gang.
“Rulings have shown that pure membership is not sufficient to secure a conviction,” Lauber said in the interview.
In mid-December the Federal Prosecutor’s Office dropped charges against five people suspected of belonging to the ‘Ndrangheta. But proceedings against the five on charges of actual criminal activity remain ongoing.
Lauber called on parliament to toughen up the criminal code to help prosecutors fight against mafia activity in Switzerland
The extent of Italian mafia operations in Switzerland has been brought into the open in the last few years, particularly surrounding the activities of one family gang that have been based in Frauenfeld, canton Thurgau, in the north of Switzerland, for the last 40 years.
Covert filmed surveillance, that came to public attention last year, showed gang members apparently organising extortion and drug running activities.
Swiss and Italian police have cooperated in an ongoing joint operation to flush out mafia members and prosecute them for their crimes. This resulted in a series of arrests in both Switzerland and Italy last year.
swissinfo.ch and agencies