Corruption in Switzerland, instructions for use


The “Small Swiss manual for white-collar criminals” from the NGO Public Eye details the country's weaknesses in terms of corruption.

There is not a drop of oil in Switzerland, yet all sales of crude oil from the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea go through the seventh floor of a modern building in central Geneva, where the Socar (State Oil Company of Azerbaijan ) set up its trading operations ten years ago. Siberian black gold follows the same path, through other well-established trading companies; dozens of new players have arrived in Switzerland in recent years to drive a booming commodities sector.

Geneva is the main Swiss hub, but it is now the entire Lake Geneva region that is home to trading structures, large or small, while the German-speaking canton of Zug, a tax haven, is the seat of the sulphurous mining giant Glencore ( coal, copper, cobalt) or even Russian Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines. For years, the Cassandras of this economic miracle have warned: sooner or later, the opacity of operations will damage Switzerland’s reputation.

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In fact, some spectacular trials have taken place recently, such as that of Franco-Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz, convicted in January in Geneva for corruption in a mining license case in Guinea. But, for the most part, the penalties remain light, investigations rare and the authorities’ curiosity little sharpened. This is how the NGO Public Eye, which specializes in these complex investigations that the public prosecutor forgets to investigate, has just published its “Guide to corruption in Switzerland”, for “Get the best out” from the country.

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The tone is playful and sarcastic, the objective, precise: “Pointing out the legislative gaps in Switzerland in the fight against corruption, for example the fact that legal advisers are not subject to the law on money laundering. We also insist on the ridiculous sanctions to which companies which do not “take the necessary organizational measures” to prevent corruption are exposed, as in the case of Gunvor in Congo-Brazzaville ”, explains Géraldine Viret of Public Eye.

Indifference of public opinion

For a decade, the NGO has been investigating long-term thanks to three investigative journalists, two for raw materials and economic crime, one for sectors such as textiles, pharmaceuticals or agrochemicals. She publishes the results of her research several times a year, which are all revelations. Their impact is nevertheless limited, even if they can lead to criminal denunciations when the bundle of elements gathered is sufficient. Faced with the general apathy, it was therefore necessary to strike a blow.

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