Terrorism and financial crimes keep Attorney General busy

The Attorney General's office is working to boost its expertise on cybercrime. Keystone

The Swiss Attorney General’s office took on 237 new investigations in 2017, compared with 190 the year before. The bulk of its caseload concerned international economic crimes and terrorism. 

This content was published on April 20, 2018 minutes

A total of 478 cases were ongoing at the end of the year, up 8% on the previous year, despite a number of cases being closed, according to the 2017 annual reportExternal link. The Attorney General’s (AG) office filed 21 indictments before the Federal Criminal Court, 7 more than the previous year. 

Complex economic crime cases included scandals related to Brazilian oil giant Petrobras, the Malaysian 1MDB fund and FIFA attributions of broadcasting rights for the World Cup. 

In the Petrobras case alone, more than one billion Swiss francs were confiscated, the report says. AG Michael Lauber told a press conference on Friday that a Swiss bank was also under investigation in the case, and others could follow. He did not name the bank. 

+ Read more about the Petrobras case 

The series of cases related to the “Arab Spring” have entered the final phase. “In the course of the year, various cases were partly concluded and seized assets were returned,” the report says. 

Terrorism investigations

A total of 17 new terrorism cases were opened last year and eight requests for mutual legal assistance implemented. This shows, according to the report, that the threat is not diminishing “despite the military defeat of Islamic State”. 

The cases handled in 2017 were marked by their strongly transnational nature and the implication of numerous suspects from Syrian and Iraqi jihadist networks, it said. 

The number of mutual legal assistance requests from other countries nearly doubled last year to 197, compared with 103 in 2016. 

On cybercrime, Lauber told the press conference that his office was making progress on establishing a special centre on cybercrime, and that the first steps were expected this year. His office has already taken on more prosecutors specialised in this field. 

International jurisdiction cases  

Deputy AG Ruedi Montanari also announced that the office expects prosecutions in the cases of a Gambian and a Liberian arrested in Switzerland for contraventions of international criminal law. They include former Gambian Interior Minister Ousman Sonko, who was arrested in Switzerland in January 2017. 

+Read more about the Gambia and Liberia cases in Switzerland

Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, the AG’s office also has the power to investigate cases concerning anyone on Swiss territory suspected of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Swiss federal authorities are currently dealing with 17 cases of this type, according to Montanari. 

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