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Swiss public institutions hit hard by white-collar crime

© Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Swiss courts dealt with 52 major cases of economic crime last year that amounted to CHF355 million ($384 million) in losses, the consultancy firm KPMG said on Thursday. Public institutions were especially targeted by fraudsters.

The total number of documented cases was up by four compared to 2019 – well below the record peak (91) in 2015. The financial losses were also much lower than the CHF1.4 billion registered in 2016.

Fraudsters targeted mostly public institutions (20) and the average loss sustained per case was CHF6.8 million, KPMG said in a statementExternal link on Thursday.

“Crimes affecting public institutions mostly relate to cases of insurance and social security fraud,” said Anne van Heerden, head of the forensic department at KPMG. “In 2020, we also saw cases of money laundering, disloyal management and tax fraud fairly frequently compared to the other offences.”

The consultancy firm said most of last year’s recorded cases were committed by professional fraudsters (19 cases). But there was a sharp increase in offences committed by private individuals. Three major cases in particular were responsible for CHF130 million in losses, KPMG said.

The most frequent offences were tax fraud, followed by disloyal management and embezzlement.

The French-speaking Lake Geneva region was the hardest hit by white-collar crime in 2020 (19 cases and more than one-third of the losses). It was followed by Zurich and eastern Switzerland, which each reported eight cases.

In its statement the consultancy firm added that, since “experience shows that many cases are never even reported, the actual figures for white-collar crime are likely to be several times higher”.

The information was published in the annual “KPMG Forensic Fraud Barometer”, which covers all Swiss court cases tried in public and reported in the media during the year. Data was compiled from over 5,000 relevant newspaper articles in 2020.

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