The Swiss Federal Police Office (fedpol) says it has stepped up efforts to monitor radical Islamic websites and boosted international cooperation to fight the Italian mafia and crack down on human trafficking.
Presenting its annual report for 2011, the office said on Thursday it had launched several investigations against operators of websites containing scenes of extreme violence, instruction manuals on violence or cases of incitement to commit violent acts.
Switzerland has not been a target of acts of terror and there is no evidence to suggest that there were plans for such an attack last year, according to a statement issued by the office on Thursday. Nevertheless, jihadist groups have used the country as a base for providing radical Islamic groups with logistical support and for spreading propaganda.
However, it said that restrictions in Swiss legislation meant that it was a “major challenge” to investigate effectively such support activities, in particular those posted on the web.
The report mentions the case of a Swiss who converted to Islam and is suspected of having used the internet to discuss a possible attack on a United States installation in a European country. However, it provides no further details about the investigation.
Staff levels at the office were boosted at the beginning of 2011 to increase monitoring by IT and other specialists, adding that investigating cybercrime has become an increasingly important part of its activities. Fedpol also said its cooperation with the Federal Intelligence Services had improved.
In a bid to crack down on human trafficking and smuggling, the office expanded its contacts with eastern European countries, notably Bulgaria and Romania.
The report points out that investigations into suspected trafficking are often very difficult as victims are under severe pressure and therefore reluctant to report what has happened to them.
To meet this problem, the police office is settling up a national witness protection programme to come into operation next year.
“Victims and witnesses who could be the target of revenge have to be afforded protection outside the judicial proceedings, both during and after the conclusion of the trial,” the report said.
Last year, 3,860 cases of human trafficking and the smuggling of illegal migrants were reported, down from 4,281 cases in 2010.
Most victims are Roma women from Romania and Bulgaria who were smuggled into Switzerland to work in the sex trade. Police say traffickers increasingly used flights from Greece with Swiss International Airlines to bring in their victims.
Switzerland has traditionally been a transit and target country for illegal migrants from eastern Europe, Brazil, Thailand and West Africa, according to the report.
Switzerland has also remained an attractive financial market for Italian crime syndicates, with the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta organisation at the forefront.
It appears to have the strongest presence in the country and has been extending its sphere of influence further north in the past few years.
“The geographical shift towards Switzerland is linked, among other reasons, to the increasing pressure being applied on the mafia by the Italian law enforcement agencies,” fedpol said.
The Swiss authorities last year strengthened cooperation with their Italian counterparts, exchanging information and analysing crime trends.
The report said the focus was especially on “asset recovery and developing appropriate investigating methods”. The aim is to gather data on organised crime as well as its structures and prevent such groups from infiltrating the public service and undermining industry.