The authorities in canton Fribourg have confirmed that an investigation is underway into money-laundering by the Russian mafia in the canton. However, they said the probe had been on hold for the past two years.
Cantonal authorities on Thursday confirmed the information revealed by the French-language daily, Le Temps. Few other details have emerged from official sources about the extent of Mafia penetration or the names of those involved.
The examining magistrate, Jacques Rayroud, said the investigation, which opened in 1997, had been suspended two years ago because of lack of personnel, overwork and various difficulties linked to a related case.
He said the federal prosecutor at the time, Carla del Ponte, had been informed of the inquiry.
According to Le Temps, several people in the world of sport and economic affairs are implicated in the case, as well as a Georgian businessman.
The newspaper says the major inquiry is responsible for the deterioration of relations between the judicial authorities and the police in the canton. Le Temps links the investigation to the early retirement of one of the two investigating magistrates on the case, and to the trial of the former head of the cantonal drugs squad who was allegedly in charge of the operation.
A spokesman for the federal police confirmed that various people and companies in canton Fribourg were suspected of having contacts with the Russian mafia, but gave no details.
The investigating magistrate, Rayroud, said he was in favour of setting up a national organisation to combat organised crime. He said the cantons did not have the means for this task.
swissinfo with agencies
In compliance with the JTI standards