Switzerland
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    Profile

    Switzerland

    Capital

    Bern

    Gross domestic product (GDP)

    USD 703,082.44 million

    Income group

    High income

    Population

    8,575,280

    Area

    41,290 km²

    Geography type

    Landlocked

    4.34

    Criminality score

    127th of 193 countries

    27th of 44 countries in Europe

    6th of 11 countries in Western Europe

    Criminal market

    4.30

    Human trafficking

    5.00

    Human smuggling

    3.00

    Arms trafficking

    6.50

    Flora crimes

    1.50

    Fauna crimes

    3.00

    Non-renewable resource crimes

    7.00

    Heroin trade

    2.50

    Cocaine trade

    5.50

    Cannabis trade

    5.50

    Synthetic drug trade

    3.50

    Criminal actors

    4.38

    Mafia-style groups

    4.50

    Criminal networks

    4.00

    State-embedded actors

    1.50

    Foreign actors

    7.50

    7.13

    Resilience score

    24th of 193 countries

    17th of 44 countries in Europe

    9th of 11 countries in Western Europe

    Political leadership and governance

    9.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    6.50

    International cooperation

    7.50

    National policies and laws

    6.50

    Judicial system and detention

    7.00

    Law enforcement

    7.50

    Territorial integrity

    8.50

    Anti-money laundering

    5.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    6.00

    Victim and witness support

    8.00

    Prevention

    6.00

    Non-state actors

    8.00

    7.13 4.38 4.30 7.13 4.38 4.30

    7.13

    Resilience score

    24th of 193 countries

    17th of 44 countries in Europe

    9th of 11 countries in Western Europe

    Political leadership and governance

    9.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    6.50

    International cooperation

    7.50

    National policies and laws

    6.50

    Judicial system and detention

    7.00

    Law enforcement

    7.50

    Territorial integrity

    8.50

    Anti-money laundering

    5.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    6.00

    Victim and witness support

    8.00

    Prevention

    6.00

    Non-state actors

    8.00

    Analysis

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    People

    Switzerland is predominately a destination and, to a lesser extent, a transit point for human trafficking. Most notably, prostitution has been legal in the country since 1942 and human trafficking has a significant impact on the prostitution market. Reports estimate that around 70% of sex workers in the country are victims of trafficking. In addition, trafficking victims are exploited in the building, restaurant and agriculture industries. Victims are predominately women and children coming from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Thailand or Africa. Reportedly, one in three victims of human trafficking in Switzerland is an asylum seeker. Thus, there have been calls for a temporary suspension of asylum procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to protect potential victims. Asylum seekers are arguably increasingly at risk of victimization during the pandemic, due to the process of acquiring an asylum taking longer than would otherwise be the case.

    Switzerland is also a destination and transit country for human smuggling. Irregular migrants mainly arrive in the country via the Balkan and the Adriatic routes and, although the numbers of irregular entries have decreased since the height of the European migrant crisis, they are still above the numbers recorded in the late noughties.

    Trade

    Switzerland has one of the highest rates of private gun ownership worldwide, however, evidence suggests that the level of arms and ammunition smuggling is low but on the rise since the early 2010s. Reportedly, actors involved in trafficking include domestic networks with ties to neighbouring countries as well as foreign networks who would obtain weapons in Switzerland, often legally, and then traffic the goods across national borders. Notably, the 'Ndrangheta was able to traffic various types of firearms and ammunition into Italy after obtaining them legally in Switzerland. Information also suggests that weapons are often ordered online from Asian trading platforms and delivered into the country, from where they are smuggled to end markets.

    Environment

    Risk of illegal harvesting of wood is low in Switzerland and illicit logging does not seem to be an issue. There are some smuggled flora species coming mostly from Thailand and Singapore, but the market is likely small in scope and scale. Insofar as fauna related crimes occur in the country, Switzerland is described as a destination for wildlife parts and products, where domestic actors collaborate with foreign nationals. Bushmeat as well as ivory and live animal species have been seized on the country’s borders, primarily coming into Switzerland via air, but overall information is scarce.

    Conversely, the non-renewable resources crimes market in Switzerland is quite significant. The country is among the largest importers of gold, with significant quantities of gold allegedly being imported illegally into Switzerland. The country is also highly influential abroad, contributing to the expansion of illegal mining across Latin America. Evidence suggests that Swiss refineries receive illegally mined gold from Latin American groups involved not only in illegal mining, but also money laundering and human and drug trafficking. Reportedly, ‘blood gold’ originating in Sudan or the Democratic Republic of Congo is smuggled into the UAE before being imported and refined in Switzerland. Not least of all, fraudulently stamped gold bars with Swiss refineries’ logos have been detected in Switzerland, which suggests that laundering of gold also occurs in the country, likely on a large scale.

    Drugs

    Switzerland is primarily a destination country for heroin with foreign actors, especially ethnic Albanian organized crime groups, being involved in the illicit trade. The latter are hierarchically organized and difficult to infiltrate and dismantle, which has allowed them to dominate the heroin trade since the late 1990s. Heroin is primarily produced in Afghanistan, from where the majority of which is smuggled through Iran into Turkey. Estimates suggest that 20 to 25 tonnes of the heroin trafficked from Turkey reaches Italy and Switzerland, mainly imported through North Macedonia and Albania. In contrast to the heroin epidemic and the drug-related violence of the 1990s, the market seems to be under control and has significantly reduced and stabilized. Nevertheless, heroin's direct and indirect social costs are not negligible. Switzerland is also one of the largest destination markets for cocaine in Europe. Since the 1980s, the sale and distribution of cocaine has been dominated mainly by Nigerian groups collaborating with local networks, but groups from Gambia, Guinea, Latin America, Albania and Switzerland have also been known to engage in the market. Reportedly, cocaine originates in Latin America and West Africa and generally reaches Switzerland through Spain and/or the Netherlands. For the most part, traffickers either use drug mules who smuggle small quantities of cocaine or traffic the cocaine hidden in luggage or vehicles. Cocaine is sold privately or on the internet in Switzerland.

    Low-tetrahydrocannabinol cannabis was decriminalized in Switzerland in 2012 is the most prevalent drug in the country. Although detection of illegal cannabis is difficult, it is estimated that the illicit cannabis market amounts to 40 to 80 tonnes of annual consumption. Importantly, the legal and illegal trades overlap as consumers tend to use both legal and illegal products, which may expose them to criminal networks. Studies report between 50% and 70% of cannabis on the Swiss market to be produced domestically, but foreign actors operating in Switzerland, especially Albanian groups, are involved in production as well. Synthetic drugs are also popular in Switzerland, with amphetamines, Ecstasy as well as other synthetic drugs produced and imported in Switzerland from the Netherlands and northern Belgium. Methamphetamine, on the other hand, comes from Eastern Europe and Asia, whereas ‘Thai’ pills or Yaba are trafficked from the Philippines and Thailand. Reportedly, crystal methamphetamine is produced predominately in the Czech Republic and trafficked into Switzerland. Some production of synthetic drugs does exist in Switzerland, though it is negligible in comparison to other European countries. In terms of actors involved, various types of groups engage in trafficking and dealing in synthetic drugs, depending on the drug itself. For instance, users often buy amphetamines and Ecstasy from traffickers and supply their own networks with the drugs. There are very few street dealers who sell amphetamines and Ecstasy. Meanwhile, traditional dealers are the ones who control the distribution of crystal methamphetamine.

    Criminal Actors

    There are many foreign criminal actors active in Switzerland, though their activity differs in scale and reach. Their presence is at times limited to specific individuals, but more structured cells have settled down in the country as well, as is the case with the 'Ndrangheta. Albanian and Italian mafias operate in multiple markets, namely arms, drugs and human trafficking. The cocaine and human trafficking markets are partially controlled by West African gangs; principally, Nigerian criminal associations, such as the Black Axe or the Supreme Eiye Confraternity. Mafia-like organizations are also present in Switzerland in the form of local chapters of motorcycle clubs. Outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs) are also active on multiple criminal markets – i.e. arms and drug trafficking as well as human trafficking, linked to prostitution markets. OMCGs also engage in extorting local businesses, but try to remain low-key to ensure that they are not linked to further criminal activities. Reportedly, these groups use weapons and are violent in enforcing their territorial control.

    Given the domination of Swiss criminal markets by foreign actors, there are only a few domestic criminal networks, apart from sub-contracted third parties. Networks with ties to foreign groups tend to concentrate in major urban centres, such as Geneva, Basel, Zurich and Bern. There are no indications to suggest that state-embedded actors exist in Switzerland.

    Leadership and governance

    Public trust in Swiss authorities is high and the democratic process is independent and free from criminal influence. Authorities have expressed a strong stance against organized crime, particularly the Italian mafia. While corruption is not a major issue, the country remains susceptible as significant anti-corruption reforms are yet to materialize. Reportedly, the current anti-corruption working group lacks expertise as well as an adequate budget and a sound strategy. Vulnerabilities to nepotism and trading in influence persist. In addition, the government is transparent and accountable but certain sectors are not sufficiently regulated, which creates risks of criminality. The legal framework guiding access to information also has shortcomings, which need to be addressed accordingly.

    Switzerland is party to most international treaties and conventions pertaining to organized crime, as well as an active member of international initiatives aiming to curb organized crime. Swiss law enforcement agencies engage well with their Italian counterparts, aiming to further improve cooperation in the fight against Italian mafia groups. Sharing of intelligence is also well established both in the Swiss legal framework and in practice. In that respect, while the country's national policies and laws are generally able to adequately respond to current threats, some shortcomings are identified. For instance, while foreign mafia groups are a problem, membership to a mafia-style organization is not punishable. Additionally, Switzerland has objectively liberal gun laws, although a revised arms legislation in line with new EU arms regulations was adopted in 2019, making several semi-automatic arms illegal in the country. The country also has a strategy for the implementation of multilateral guidelines against the small arms trade, but Swiss law does not distinguish between arms that require registration, arms that require a permit and illegal arms.

    Criminal justice and security

    The office of the attorney general is responsible for prosecuting federal offences, including organized crime, terrorism and terrorism financing as well as money laundering and corruption. The Swiss prison system, under the authority of the federal department of justice and police has a small prison population, consisting mostly of foreign nationals, though it is approaching full capacity. Law enforcement-wise, the Swiss federal police is tasked with investigating matters that fall under federal jurisdiction – organized crime, money laundering and terrorism included. The federal police also oversees the work of special units tackling organized crime – the Swiss money laundering reporting office (MROS), the coordination unit against the trafficking of persons and smuggling of migrants, and the central office for explosives and pyrotechnics/arms. Notably, the Swiss police has committed to a new strategy prioritizing the fight against mafia-style groups.

    Switzerland is also increasing border controls in coordination with EU Entry/Exit System efforts, especially since the 2019 passing of Swiss legislation aiming to improve the sharing of police data with European law enforcement. The Swiss border guard also coordinates their work well with other national agencies, including the special formation of federal customs administration, whose mobile support units are tasked with more complex cross-regional investigations. Nevertheless, Switzerland's geographical location and rather lax tax regulations have made it a popular country for money laundering and illegal trading transit.

    Economic and financial environment

    Switzerland has an administrative unit within the federal police tasked with oversight of anti-money laundering. The MROS is a mediator between law enforcement agencies and financial intermediaries. Activities of the MROS fall under the provisions of the anti-money laundering act, and include analysis and reporting of suspicious activities linked to the areas of money laundering, terrorist financing, money of criminal origin or criminal organizations. Nevertheless, financial oversight requires further improvement to more reliably and consistently trace and track abuse of financial loopholes and detect money laundering and terrorism financing. Doing business in the country is comparably easy as the economic regulatory environment is conducive to entrepreneurship.

    Civil society and social protection

    The government of Switzerland has a fairly robust support framework for victims of modern slavery to exit modern slavery. Human trafficking victim support, information and coordination is overseen by Victim Support Switzerland, a platform administered by the Swiss conference of cantonal ministers of social affairs and supported by the department of justice, the ministry of the interior, and the bureau of equality of women and men. On the downside, male victims of human trafficking are comparatively disadvantaged, as support programmes predominately focus on women and children's needs. Importantly, NGOs also provide research and support, including shelter to victims of trafficking. The country has also advanced its witness protection mechanisms over the past decade, evident in the establishment of a witness protection unit within the federal police. While there is no overarching national strategy on guiding organized crime prevention, there are several issue-specific frameworks, namely the National Action Plan to Fight Human Trafficking for 2017–20 and the federal council’s strategy for an information society in Switzerland, having ‘security and confidence’ as one of its key areas.

    The Swiss government has a reputation for being open and supportive of a strong and independent civil society sector, which has contributed to Switzerland becoming an international NGO hub. Although there is a broad range of civil society organizations active in the country, few focus on Switzerland itself. Of those that do, most work on issues related to human trafficking and migration. While print media is declining in popularity in Switzerland, many new digital media outlets have come into being in recent years. Overall, Switzerland generally boasts a strong media landscape, but poor access to public information is an issue that hinders data and investigative journalism.

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    The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.

    This report was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State.

    ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

    The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.