Customs Investigation is the customs investigative body. It is made up of approximately 150 specially trained staff members with judicial police powers and is responsible for combating serious cases of smuggling.
In addition to tax fraud cases (customs duties, VAT upon importation, taxes and duties on tobacco, alcohol, mineral oils, etc.), it also works to fight smuggling in the areas of species protection (CITES Convention), infectious animal diseases, medicines, cabotage, etc.
It is active both at the border and within Switzerland. In order to optimise its operations throughout Switzerland, Customs Investigation has offices in Bern, Basel, Zurich, Lausanne and Lugano. It can intervene when an offence is committed, or even several years later.
In recent years, Customs Investigation has dealt with major cases such as the following:
- Discovery of irregular imports of works of art worth several million francs;
- Discovery of illegal imports of several tonnes of meat or foodstuffs presenting a proven health risk;
- Discovery of illegal trafficking of glass eels (eels protected by the CITES Convention);
- Discovery of trafficking of tobacco for water pipes.
In all these cases, goods that posed a risk to the population were confiscated and destroyed, live animals were released into the wild, where possible, and taxes and duties were systematically collected.
In addition to their investigative powers, Customs Investigation officers also have the power to issue judgments. Customs Investigation generally issues administrative penalties concerning multiple taxes that are due. In the most serious instances, it forwards the cases to the competent courts in order for custodial sentences to be imposed.