Whether the corruption scandal at the Brazilian company Petrobras, the affair around the Malaysian state fund 1MDB or the criminal investigations against Fifa: almost all cases, which the Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office (SFPO) reported on last week have one thing in common: the SFPO has to deal with are large dossiers with connections to many foreign countries. Usually, law enforcement authorities of various countries are involved in such cases, but they have only a chance to succeed if global cooperation can be secured. In the investigation against the quasi-state owned oil company Petrobras, such cooperation has paid off: the SFPO has confiscated about CHF 1 billion with some CHF 200 million already being repatriated to Brazil.

However, according to SFPO, the complex procedures with numerous international ramifications are becoming increasingly burdensome, thereby hampering efficient law enforcement. In order to speed up complex cases of such size, it is necessary that information can be exchanged rapidly on an international level. Instead, the international Swiss legal assistance procedures are quite often slow as document transfers can only be secured when all parties concerned can exercise their legal rights. Even if such complaints have not much of chance to succeed, international legal assistance procedures are sometimes delayed for months.

"Foreign authorities would have to guarantee not to use the information in criminal proceedings as evidence until the ordinary international legal aid procedures in Switzerland had been completed."

The Lead Swiss Federal Prosecutor, Mr. Michael Lauber, therefore pleads for more efficiency and speed. A more dynamic international legal assistance would allow the SFPO to exchange information more quickly. However, the foreign authorities would have to guarantee that they did not use the information in criminal proceedings as evidence until the ordinary international legal aid procedures in Switzerland had been completed.

Mr. Lauber is convinced that a dynamic interpretation of the existing Swiss legal framework for international legal assistance would not only strengthen international cooperation in this area, but also lead to a reduction of complaints submitted only for delays. It is also clear that the position of affected parties would touched in one or the other way. Such a change would take place "in the important paradigm shift that Switzerland has accomplished and continues to do in the area of co-operation in international tax matters," so the SFPO.

[Free translation of an article published in Neue Zürcher Zeitung on April 6, 2017]

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