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Swiss step up fight against corruption and crime

Switzerland is plugging the legal holes in its fight against corruption.

(Photopress)

The House of Representatives has come out in favour of joining the Council of Europe's Convention on Corruption.

Also on Thursday, the parliamentary chamber ratified an accord with the European Police Office (Europol) on closer cooperation in fighting organised crime and international terrorism.

The House followed the Senate in deciding to take a tougher line on corruption. While Swiss legislation conforms with many aspects of the convention, it does not comply with them all.

Following the debate the House voted unanimously to bring legislation into line with the convention by adding to the number of offences punishable by law.

The amendments apply to the private sector, where so-called passive corruption – the accepting of bribes - and accepting money from foreign public officials would become criminal offences.

But in both cases a complaint would need to be brought before legal action could be taken.

Under the changes approved by the parliamentary chamber, firms which bribe individuals would also face sanctions.

The justice minister, Christoph Blocher, said that joining the convention would enable Switzerland to pursue cross-border investigations into those suspected of corruption. He said that while Switzerland was one of the least corrupt countries, isolated cases of bribery still occurred.

Organised crime and terrorism

The House of Representatives also voted to step up police cooperation with Europe. It followed the Senate in giving its backing to a Europol accord governing terrorism and international crime.

At present Switzerland relies on bilateral accords with neighbouring countries and a global cooperation agreement with Interpol.

Eight types of offence are covered by the treaty: terrorism, human trafficking and smuggling, drug trafficking, motoring offences, money laundering and counterfeiting, as well as trading in nuclear and radioactive substances.

Central to the accord is the exchange of analysis and expert knowledge and technical support. The agreement contains data-protection provisions.

In a separate vote, the House approved the ratification of a protocol to the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. The protocol should make it harder for those who have committed terrorist acts to avoid extradition on political grounds.

The Senate still has to debate the issue.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Council of Europe Convention on Corruption came into effect in 2002.

It is aimed at harmonising the penal norms in member states and reinforcing international cooperation.

Apart from different forms of corruption, it covers offences including money laundering.

The accord between Switzerland and Europol was signed in September 2004. It covers cooperation in tackling a range of offences.

It contains data protection provisions.

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