The professionalization of the judicial fight against financial crime in Zurich and Geneva, 1970-1990

During the 1970s and 1980s, economic and financial crime turned into a societal issue in Switzerland’s main financial centers, Geneva and Zurich. The perpetrators of white-collar crime often enjoyed total impunity: legal proceedings were very time consuming, authorities in charge of judicial investigation were under-resourced, and lawsuits did not lead to anything, because offences were outdated. For example, in 1976, a cantonal popular initiative to step up the fight against economic crime succeeded in Zurich.

This paper investigates how the political and judicial authorities responded to this challenge. By the end of the 1980s, both in Geneva and Zurich, a strong shift towards a more specialized handling of financial crime by public prosecutors occurred. Specialized departments were set up and judges were trained in commercial matters. What were the main drivers of this development ?