OECD recognises Swiss efforts in fighting the bribery of foreign public officials

Bern, 12.01.2012 - Today, the OECD released its latest country report and recommendations to Switzerland on the prevention of bribery of foreign public officials. In this report, the OECD commends Switzerland for the first case in which criminal sanctions were applied to a company for its failure to prevent the bribery of foreign public officials. The OECD also praised Switzerland for its proactive stance in the confiscation, recovery and return of illegally obtained assets. It also noted that Switzerland introduced new provisions, which came into effect on 1 January 2011, whereby federal employees have a duty to report crimes and irregularities. At the same time, the OECD encourages Switzerland to continue its efforts to fight the bribery of foreign public officials.

The OECD Working Group on Bribery regularly monitors implementation of the OECD Convention of 1997 on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions in countries that have adopted the Convention. Switzerland is currently in Phase 3 of this monitoring process.

In June 2011, the OECD sent a team of experts to Switzerland to visit and hold discussions with representatives of the Federal Administration, the Office of the Attorney General, cantonal authorities, businesses , academics, the media and civil society. The country report mainly focuses on measures taken by Switzerland to prosecute, punish and prevent cases relating to the bribery of foreign public officials. In addition to highlighting positive developments, the report also cites areas in which there is room for improvement.

In its report, the OECD commends Switzerland for the first case in which criminal sanctions were applied to a company for its failure to take all necessary and reasonable organisational measures to prevent the payment of bribes to foreign public officials. The OECD praises Switzerland for its significant efforts to provide mutual legal assistance and its proactive stance in the confiscation, recovery and return of illegally obtained assets . The OECD also noted the new provisions of the Federal Personnel Act (SR 172.220.1), which came into effect in January 2011, whereby most federal employees have a duty to report crimes or other irregularities of which they have become aware in the course of official work activities. The OECD also commends Switzerland for the numerous awareness and training measures taken to fight corruption in both the public and private sectors.

However, the OECD regrets that the number of convictions remains low despite the numerous criminal proceedings initiated. As far as corporate liability is concerned, the OECD recommends that Switzerland provide specific training to law enforcement authorities on how corporate liability may apply in bribery cases. The OECD also recommends that companies found guilty of bribery of foreign public officials be automatically excluded from public procurement contracts or official development assistance. Switzerland has also been asked to review its policy on low level bribes and undertake further efforts to raise awareness among SMEs with activities in other countries of the risks of corruption in their international dealings. Finally, the OECD recommends that whistleblower protection be anchored in legislation also for the private sector. 

Over the next few years, Switzerland will submit regular reports to the OECD on implementation of these recommendations.

Switzerland contributed substantially to the drafting of the OECD Convention of 1997 on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Due to this convention, the bribery of foreign public officials has been a criminal offence in Switzerland since 2000. In addition, more stringent legal provisions applying to companies came into effect in 2003.


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