Switzerland is both a consumer market and transit route for illicit narcotics, but it is not a significant producer of most illicit drugs, with the exception of hemp/marijuana. Nevertheless, in 2006 (NB: Throughout this report, the latest official statistics available are for 2006) total reported drug arrests reached 47,001, down 5 percent from the 49,450 cases recorded last year. Drug arrests peaked at just over 50,000 in 2004. Cocaine seizures increased significantly 25 percent to 354 kg (2005: +44 percent; 2004: +91 percent) and Ecstasy seizures increased 7.1 percent to 216,000 pills (2005: +75 percent; 2004: +480 percent). Seizures in 2007 by cantonal police were another record, but the pace of increase in seizures of both cocaine and Ecstasy seem to be slowing down, perhaps indicating a plateau in abuse of these two stimulants. Many drug smugglers belong to Swiss-based foreign criminal networks from Africa and the Balkans. The Swiss public continues its strong support for the government's four-pillar counternarcotics policy of preventive education, treatment, harm reduction, and law enforcement.
The politics of drug liberalization at the federal level have changed recently, putting the brakes on the cannabis legalization movement. A new drug bill aimed at decriminalizing cannabis use for Swiss adults, concentrating enforcement efforts against other drugs, and making permanent a pilot heroin maintenance program for drug addicts was rejected by parliament in June 2004. A month later, the public lobby "For the Protection of Youth against Drug Criminality" initiated a new ballot initiative demanding the decriminalization of cannabis, including the possession, consumption, and purchase for personal use. Supporters include well-known legislators from the whole political spectrum, physicians, scientists, prevention professionals, business leaders, as well as law enforcement and hemp industry representatives. The group collected 105,994 signatures and formally registered its referendum at the Federal Chancellery on January 13, 2006. In December, the federal government expressed its opposition to the project but said the initiative would be put to referendum in 2009-2010. A zero tolerance law against driving while under the influence of drugs (cannabis, heroin, cocaine, Ecstasy) entered into effect on January 1, 2005. Switzerland is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
II. Status of Country
In a country of approximately seven and a half million people, about half a million Swiss residents are thought to use cannabis at least occasionally. Roughly 30,000 people are addicted to heroin and/or cocaine, and more than 7.2 percent of the population uses a narcotic substance regularly. While reported arrests for Ecstasy consumption decreased by 11 percent in 2006, the use of other drugs increased compared to 2005. Cannabis, cocaine, and heroin still remain popular among drug addicts. Swiss statistics show that cocaine consumption among youngsters is on the rise. Police are also concerned about the continuing trend by casual users to mix cannabis and other drugs. An international survey recently found that Swiss teenagers smoke more cannabis than their peers in more than 30 other European countries, with one in three Swiss 15-year-olds smoking pot at least once within the past year. There are an estimated total of 250,000 people who regularly smoke cannabis-nearly twice as many as a decade ago. Drug trafficking-related arrests almost doubled from 97 to 182 cases, but deaths due to drug consumption (overdoses) decreased from 211 to 193. The Swiss Federal Police published a report on narcotics activities in 2005. It is available at: www..fedpol.admin.ch/fedpol/de/homeldokumentationlstatistiken.html
III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2007
Policy Initiatives. Since January 1, 2002, jurisdiction for all cases involving organized crime, money laundering, and international drug trafficking shifted from the cantons to the federal prosecutor's office in Bern. According to the federal prosecutor's office, the number of investigative magistrates increased to 25 in 2006. Beginning January 1, 2002, it became illegal to advertise products that contain narcotic or other psychotropic substances without government certification. Violators who put human lives at risk face fines up to $158,079 (SFr 200,000) or imprisonment. Heroin maintenance prescription programs originally intended to end in December 2004 have been extended until 2009. The Swiss Federal Office for Public Health believes that its heroin prescription program has a direct impact on drug-related crime: around 70 percent of addicts earned money from illegal activities at the time they entered the program, compared with 10 percent after 18 months in the program. The heroin prescription program has many detractors. Following the release of the "Zurich Drugs and Addiction Policy Report," made public on August 12, 2004, Zurich authorities admitted that they had been so busy tackling the open heroin scene that other areas of addiction had been overlooked. After concentrating on the heroin problem for the past ten years, the city said it wanted to be more active in other areas, such as encouraging the reintegration into society of drug addicts. A pilot project for the distribution of cocaine under prescription is underway, but it is not being supported for the time being by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health in Bern. However, the Swiss government is backing other pilot projects in Bern and Basel aimed at distributing Ritalin, a substitute for narcotic drugs. The City of Zurich has also offered, over the last five years, the possibility for youngsters to test their drugs outside nightclubs. In September 2006, the city decided to open an office, open daily, which should provide the same services and is sponsored by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health and the city budget. Swiss and German authorities continue to cooperate under a bilateral police agreement signed on June 22, 2004, aimed at increasing bilateral cooperation at border checkpoints. The main goal of the agreement is to facilitate police cooperation to more effectively deal with drug and weapons smuggling. Document specialists from both countries also assist border guards to use improved techniques to detect forged travel documents. The Swiss-German border crossing at Basel/Larach is one of the busiest in Europe, with 70 million people crossing per year.
Law Enforcement Efforts. According to the Swiss Federal Police, there are three types of organized criminal groups in the country: the West African networks involved in the cocaine traffic; Albanian bands dealing in heroin and prostitution; and the money laundering networks working from the former Soviet republics. Noticing that many resident aliens, suspected (but not convicted) of drug dealing, travel from canton to canton, several cantonal authorities increasingly ban convicted drug dealers, resident in another canton, from visiting their cantons. They also prohibit convicted drug dealers from visiting certain areas, like railway stations (difficult) and schools (possible). If picked up by police, these dealers (mainly refugees from Eastern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa) are fined and "deported" to their canton of residency. If picked up again, they are jailed. Deportation of foreign drug dealers to their home country is difficult because they often hide their true country of origin from the police (NB: cantonal police are responsible for deportations, not the Federal Office of Migration). When looking at cross-border cocaine smuggling, the Swiss Federal Police believe that many criminals involved use the train to connect the Swiss drug market with Holland or Spain. Their nationalities range from Swiss, Italians, Lebanese, West-African, South-East Europe, South American, to the Dominican Republic. The "mules" generally originate from Africa, Brazil, the Dominican Republic or Europe. To give a sense of drug abuse developments in Switzerland, some important drug-related enforcement operations are described below:
* In November 2006, the Vaud police dismantled a cocaine network involving twelve Nigerians, and seized SFr. 140,000 and 800 grams of cocaine. The investigation started a few months prior to the arrest when other Nigerians were arrested in Nyon and Yverdon with 1.1 kg of cocaine and SFr. 46,000. Later, the police dismantled the entire regional network and arrested 12 dealers and wholesalers. Three other African dealers holding "B" resident permits were also arrested, with 45 grams of cocaine and SFr. 95,000. Finally, a drug smuggler from Romania was arrested in Yverdon with 700 grams of cocaine in his stomach. He was to deliver it to a Nigerian drug dealer, who was also arrested with SFr. 18,000.
* In November 2006, a ship container containing 57 kg of cocaine was discovered in Basel. The cocaine was hidden on a ship loaded with coffee that originated from Anvers, Belgium, and had reached Basel over the Rheine River. It appears that the drug was imported from Columbia and was originally destined for Holland and ended up in Basel by mistake. Its market value is estimated at SFr. 5 million.
* In November 2006, the Basel-Am-Rhein border post arrested three Serb/Bosnian women aged 33-46. They were traveling in a German car and carried stolen driving licenses. Border guards discovered 16 kg of cocaine worth SFr. 1.3 million in their car, their biggest seizure of the year.
* In December 2006, the Zurich police arrested 20 people involved in a large-scale Ecstasy trafficking network operating from Switzerland to the United States.
* In December 2006, a Vaud cantonal judge determined that the cantonal revenue service could keep SFr. 3.34 million found during a Swiss-U.S. anti-narcotic operation. The funds were discovered in a Swiss bank account in Lausanne and belonged to Columbian narco-traffickers. These revenues will be used to finance anti-narcotic operations and drug prevention training. The Vaud counternarcotics taskforce code-named STRADA increased the number of drug related arrests significantly.
* In March, the Lausanne police in canton Vaud dismantled a Brazilian cocaine ring and seized 5 kg of cocaine, worth SFr. 1.2 million. The main perpetrators purchased the drug in Brazil where it is sold at SFr. 6 per gram, and trafficked it using false-bottom suitcases. While 16 people were involved in the ring, seven remain in custody for drug smuggling and other criminal offences. In 2006, the Lausanne police seized 6.3 kg of cocaine, while Vaud police seized 4.8 kg for the entire canton.
* In March, the Geneva police seized 220 kg of Khat at the Mategnin border post, the largest quantity ever. A car with Vaud license plate was about to enter Switzerland from France, but turned back when it spotted the police. The car was later stopped at another checkpoint. The Somali driver and his accomplice had taken some of the Khat themselves to fortify them for the long drive from Holland. The defendant is a well know drug trafficker. The Khat was originally imported from Africa. Cross-border arrests are easy on the Swiss/French border since Switzerland and France signed a hot pursuit agreement which enables police of both countries to pursue and arrest across the border. The Somali driver was convicted and served a 60 day sentence.
* Last year Swiss customs intercepted 193 kg of cocaine and 59 kg of heroin at the country's borders. Also uncovered were 95 kg of cannabis and around 50,000 doses of drugs such as Ecstasy and LSD. Swiss officials believe Europe is currently awash with trafficked cocaine, smuggled in by highly professional gangs from traditional regions such as South America and the Caribbean, but more and more from West African countries. International anti-smuggling operations have already been carried out, with large amounts of illegal substances being confiscated at Airports. Swiss police and customs often face sophisticated smugglers who conceal drugs in double suitcases or conceal the drugs presence via electronic equipment.
* In July, the Ticino police dismantled a cocaine network and arrested 25 dealers and fined 250 of their clients. One kilogram of cocaine and SFr. 160,000 were also confiscated. The drug traffickers were mostly African asylum seekers who delivered drugs to Ticino from northern parts of Switzerland.
* In August, a total of 150 kg of heroin valued over 33 million U.S. dollars was seized at the Swiss-Austrian border in the canton of St Gallen. During a routine check at the Diepoldsau border post, the Swiss police discovered 30 packs of heroin, hidden on a Turkish truck. It was the largest amount of heroin ever seized in Switzerland. The 150 kg of heroin, packed in 500 grams black plastic bags, was heading for Zurich. The two Turkish drivers on the truck were also arrested. Swiss and Austrian police conducted searches in Zurich and Vienna, while the Turkish police also started their investigations locally.
* In August, Swiss customs discovered at the Chiasso border post 270 kg of marijuana hidden in a tourist bus returning from the Balkans through Italy. The drug (220 small packages) was hidden in the fuel tank. The two drivers were arrested and handed over to the Ticino police.
* In August, Swiss customs in Chiasso arrested a young Italian woman traveling on the Amsterdam-Milan train and carrying 50,000 Ecstasy pills.
* Late October, a Zurich district court handed down severe prison sentences of 9-11 years in prison against two drug smugglers involved in the illegal import of 195 kg of heroin. The main organizer a 41 year-old Swiss-Brazilian national, used a Swiss 75-year old lady to carry the drug hidden in art objects. She was sentenced to a two years suspended sentence.
* During 2006, cocaine seizures by Swiss border police increased from 167 kg a year ago to 193 kg, and heroin from 57 kg to 59 kg. Most of the drug seizures took place at airports. The total number of drug related arrests at the border decreased from 3,192 in 2005 to 2,563 in 2006. Across Switzerland five to ten percent of police time is spent fighting drugs. In 2005, a new undercover law went into effect. Under this law, undercover operations can only be authorized at the federal prosecutor's level. Previously, this authority rested at the cantonal law enforcement level.
Geneva police authorities complain that the city's number one problem is drug trafficking. The Geneva drug scene is controlled by many nationalities depending on the type of drug. Large numbers of drug dealers or traffickers destroy their identity papers and apply for asylum to avoid repatriation to their home country. Dealers from Algeria, Guinea and Serbia Montenegro are the most problematic in this regard. Cocaine arrives, in general, to Geneva from South America, via Amsterdam and Zurich. Drug mules hide the drug in their stomach to avoid easy detection when they take the train. The Geneva market is controlled by traffickers originating in West Africa (Benin, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, and Guinea-Conakry) who come from nearby France and the apply for asylum. In March, Geneva undercover officers arrested a 27-year old cocaine dealer from Mali. After objecting fiercely to police search, three doses of drugs were found in his mouth. Because of a lack of space in the overcrowded Geneva prison and few repatriation agreements, most African dealers are released on the street. The Geneva Drug Task Force reports that 300 young hashish drug dealers from Morocco operate on the streets of Geneva. Many of them reportedly are violent, commit theft, and have been known to stab other drug dealers. In order to evade repatriation, many of them applying for asylum destroy their identity papers and claim they are Palestinians or Iraqis. Police forces regret there are no repatriation agreements with Morocco and Algeria. A successful repatriation agreement with Nigeria helped send back many traffickers. The average monthly earnings of a drug dealer in Geneva are about SFr. 4,000. Geneva police statistics on drug-related arrests show that 98.5 percent of drug dealers were foreigners.
Corruption. As a matter of government policy, Switzerland does not encourage or facilitate illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. Similarly, no senior government official is alleged to have participated in such activities. In June, the Geneva police arrested a 50-year old employee of the Cantonal Population Office on the ground he stole 600-700 blank working permits and sold them to an Albanian cocaine network for SFr. 60,000. The judgment is still pending.
Agreements and Treaties. Switzerland and the United States cooperate in law enforcement matters through bilateral extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties. Switzerland is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Switzerland is also a party to the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols against migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons.
Cultivation and Production. Switzerland is not a significant producer of illicit drugs, with the exception of illicit production of high THC-content cannabis/hemp. After years of abuses in Hemp shops selling a variety of cannabis products, a federal court ruled in March 2000 that selling hemp products with a THC level above 0.3 percent was a violation of the narcotics law regardless of how the shop had labeled the hemp. Since then, police operations in all cantons have targeted the illegal production, traffic and sale of cannabis products. Today, hemp plantations and shops no longer operate in the open but have moved underground. Illicit cultivation of high TNC content hemp has collapsed, which has led to an increase in prices and reduced availability. In 2007, Switzerland saw an increase of smuggling cases involving cannabis (both resin and herb), showing that contrary to earlier years, domestic cannabis production no longer meets the demand of the Swiss market. Surveys among pupils in 2006 suggest that cannabis consumption is slightly decreasing (corroborated findings on consumption are due in 2009). In the past few years, there have been no important cases of domestic production of Ecstasy or other synthetic drugs in Switzerland.
Drug Flow/Transit. Switzerland is both a transit country for drugs destined for other European countries and a destination for narcotics deliveries.
Domestic Programs. Switzerland focuses heavily on prevention and early intervention to prevent casual users from developing a drug addiction. Youth programs to discourage drug use cost $6 million annually according to the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health. Swiss authorities made 230 kilograms of heroin available for registered addicts through the Heroin-assisted treatment (HAT) program. Three-quarters of those enrolled in the program were male. The number of slots available in "heroin treatment centers" increased from 1389 to 1429. With 1308 patients by December 2006, the heroin distribution program is currently running at 91 percent of capacity. A total of 135 drug addicts entered the program during 2006. The average participant is 35 year old and most are male. The Medical treatment costs approximately SFr. 33 million, or SFr. 51 per day per person. Twenty percent of the costs were paid for by the cantons, while 80 percent was paid by the individual's health insurance. Average time in heroin treatment is 2.92 years. Of the 173 persons who terminated the heroin prescription program, 63 percent opted for the methadoneassisted programs, or an abstinence therapy. In early 2005, Switzerland took part in an international pilot study, the implementation of the Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT) for adolescents with a cannabis problem. MDFT was developed at Miami University and has been used successfully in many instances in the U.S. More information on the Heroin-assisted treatment (HAT) program is available at:
IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
Bilateral Cooperation/Policy Initiatives. On March 15, 2004, Switzerland and the U.S. joined forces to curb the rise in illegal sales of prescription drugs over the Internet. The two countries called for international action in a resolution presented at the annual session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna. The joint resolution stated that every country should introduce and enforce laws against the sale of narcotics and psychotropic drugs over the Internet.
The Road Ahead. The U.S. and Switzerland will continue to build on their strong bilateral cooperation in the fight against narcotics trafficking and money laundering. In particular, the U.S. urges Switzerland to use experiences gained in fighting terrorist money laundering to become more proactive in seizing and forfeiting funds from narcotics money laundering. The U.S. also will monitor Switzerland's proposed revisions to the Swiss narcotics law.
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|Title Annotation:||Europe and Central Asia|
|Publication:||International Narcotics Control Strategy Report|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2008|