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Investigating suspected welfare cheats – where to draw the line

On 25 November 2018, Swiss will vote on whether to accept laws allowing detectives to uncover welfare fraud.


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Currently, there is nothing specific in Swiss law covering the practice. In the past, investigators have been used to gather evidence on disability and accident beneficiaries. Between 2009 and 2016, detectives were used on around 220 investigations a year, of which around two thirds were found guilty of fraud.

In 2016, the European court of human rights ruled that accident beneficiaries should not be tracked because there was no defined Swiss legal framework covering the practice. Then in 2017, the Federal Tribunal, Switzerland’s highest court, ruled against the practice for disability beneficiaries too.

Since then the government has produced new laws to clarify what is possible and what is not.

Under the new rules, tracking is only allowed if there are concrete reasons to suspect fraud and as a last resort. Visual and sound recordings are only allowed in freely accessible places, such as public spaces and balconies. In addition, with court approval, a locating device can be used. Recording inside homes or accessing phones or computers is not allowed.

Furthermore, tracking is only allowed for 30 days over a 6 month period and the welfare recipient must be informed and given the recordings after the surveillance has finished. They then have the possibility of going to court.

The new rules would apply to all forms of welfare including: disability, accident, health, unemployment, child allowances and old age pension.

A majority of Switzerland’s parliament (141 for and 50 against) is in favour of the new law, along with a majority of the Council of States, or upper house (29 for and 10 against).

Some however, don’t like the change and launched a referendum against it. The initiators argue that it it goes too far and would allow detectives to arbitrarily invade people’s private lives. They also reckon the government has been influenced by insurance lobby groups.

More on this:
Government information on the vote (in French) – Take a 5 minute French test now

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Le News
The newspaper Le News is a free, quality, local English language newspaper launched on 31 October 2013. Le News fills a gap in local Swiss media for the numerous English-speakers living and visiting Switzerland. In late January 2015 we decided to put our print medium on hold and focus on our digital media presence.
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