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Switzerland: Cooperation on combating organised crime

Christian Fernsby |
The arrests in Switzerland announced by the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) on 16 November 2021 together with the arrests made on the same day in Italy are connected to a joint operation successfully carried out by various authorities at national and international level.

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The Public Prosecutor’s Office in the Canton of St.Gallen, with support from the Federal Office of Police fedpol, is conducting criminal proceedings on suspicion of offences under the Narcotics Act.

When investigations revealed evidence of organised crime and it became clear that the case had an international dimension and that several cantons were probably affected, at the behest of the Canton of St Gallen, the authorities in the cantons concerned and the federal authorities were informed and brought into the process.

Through contacts between the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) and the responsible authorities in Italy, it emerged that criminal proceedings were already being conducted in this context by several Italian anti-mafia public prosecutors, specifically the Procura di Milano, the Procura di Reggio Calabria and the Procura di Firenze.

Thereupon, the OAG opened criminal proceedings on suspicion of supporting and/or participating in a criminal organisation. As the Swiss case had a specific connection with the proceedings conducted by the Procura di Milano and the Procura di Reggio Calabria, a joint investigation team (JIT) was set up between the OAG and the two Italian authorities.

This JIT made it possible to coordinate and successfully carry out trans-national investigative measures both in Switzerland and in Italy.

The investigative measures were ordered by the respective prosecution authorities and carried out in Switzerland by the St.Gallen Cantonal Police and by fedpol with support from the cantonal police forces in Zurich, Graubünden, Ticino, Schwyz, Solothurn, Lucerne, Aargau, Thurgau and Uri. In Italy the investigations were carried out by the Polizia di Stato, the Squadra mobile di Milano, the Guardia di Finanza, the Nucleo di Polizia Economico Finanziaria di Como and the Gruppo Carabinieri Gioia Tauro.

The common goal was to identify a criminal mafia-type organisational structure and to establish the intentions of this organisation and methods by it operated.

In the course of these investigations, the criminal proceedings conducted by the OAG were extended to include several persons and to cover criminal offences under the Narcotics Act. The investigations substantiated the suspicion that the suspects’ criminal activities both in Switzerland and in Italy followed the pattern followed by a ‘Ndrangheta clan.

In addition, close relations came to light between the suspects in Switzerland and other clans in the Como area, which were the object of the investigations conducted by the Procura di Milano. It became clear that the criminal intentions of these ‘Ndrangheta clans went beyond Italy, including Switzerland.

Furthermore, the investigations revealed the hierarchical subordination of the persons based in Switzerland to the leaders of the ‘Ndrangheta in its home regions. In Switzerland, the criminal activities identified primarily involved international drug trafficking, which always had a connection with persons and activities in Italy. In the course of the secret investigations, persons have already been arrested and considerable quantities of cocaine have been seized both in Switzerland and in Italy.

The presumption of innocence applies to all the parties to the proceedings. At present, the OAG is unable to provide any further information on the criminal proceedings and/or on specific procedural measures.

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