Zurich cops won’t report on criminals’ ethnicity

Zurich communal authorities have instructed city police to stop releasing the nationality of criminals to the media to avoid stigmatization.

Zurich cops won't report on criminals' ethnicity
Photo: Roland Fischer

An exception can only be made if the information is “pertinent” to the case, authorities decided on Wednesday, as reported by newspaper 20 Minutes on Friday.

The move was suggested by the political left as a way to prevent the racial prejudice that can arise from releasing the origins of those involved in criminal activity.  

But right-wingers counter that releasing such information is a matter of transparency.

Opinions on the issue differ throughout the country.

Police in Neuchâtel and Fribourg only release nationality “if that adds value”, Fribourg police spokesman Gallus Risse told 20 Minutes.

“It’s about using common sense and avoiding stigmatizing a specific nationality,” he said.

However police in the cantons of Geneva and Vaud take the opposite stance.

There, a suspect’s nationality would only be kept secret if it could identify him.

“We wouldn’t say that he’s Chinese if he lives in a small village and he’s the only Chinese person living there,” Pierre-Olivier Gaudard of Vaud police told the paper.

“It’s also a question of transparency,” he added.

Zurich lawmakers adopted a further initiative on Wednesday to stop certain people being subjected to multiple police searches based on their appearance.

Officers must now give a receipt to anyone subjected to a stop-and-search.

The move was proposed by two politicians in July as a way to stop racial profiling.

“In this way, officers will not only need a valid reason to carry out a check, but it will prevent certain people being searched several times over a short period”, politician Ezgi Akyol told 20 Minutes at the time.

“That would complicate our work in the street and would even be counterproductive”, Martin Niederer, Vice President of the Zurich city police association, responded to the paper.

“If we find nothing during a first search, that doesn’t mean that, during a later check, we wouldn’t find something.”

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Swedish-Swiss company ABB to pay 315 million dollars to settle charges over South Africa bribes

Swedish-Swiss industrial company ABB agreed to pay $315 million to settle US criminal charges that it bribed state-owned Eskom of South Africa over government contracts, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Friday.

Swedish-Swiss company ABB to pay 315 million dollars to settle charges over South Africa bribes

Two affiliates of ABB each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act as part of a three-year deferred prosecution agreement, the US agency said of a settlement that was coordinated with government authorities in Switzerland, Germany and South Africa.

The issue concerns a troubled project near Johannesburg with the Kusile power station, the fourth largest coal-fired generator in the world, which has been fraught with allegations of graft. South Africa’s struggling power utility Eskom commissioned the plant in 2007.

In October eight people, including former Eskom CEO Matshela Koko, were arrested on corruption charges linked to the ABB work.

Illicit payments?

Between 2014 and 2017, ABB through its subsidiaries secured “multiple” government contracts, syphoning illicit payments through subcontractors associated with an official at Eskom, South Africa’s state-owned power company, the DOJ said.

“ABB worked with these subcontractors despite their poor qualifications and lack of experience,” the DOJ said in a news release. “In return, ABB received improper advantages in its efforts to obtain work with Eskom, including, among other benefits, confidential and internal Eskom information.”

ABB engaged in “sham” negotiations with the Eskom official and falsely reported the payments as legitimate business expenses, according to the press release.

ABB chief executive Bjorn Rosengren said the company has acted in the wake of the case by “launching a new code of conduct, educating employees and implementing an enhanced control system to prevent something similar from happening again.”

ABB: Zero tolerance to non-ethical behavior

In a statement, he said that ABB has “a clear zero tolerance approach to non-ethical behavior within our company.”

The US agency said the penalty was reduced 25 percent from the high end of the sentencing range in light of ABB’s “extraordinary” cooperation and “extensive” remediation efforts.

But the department noted that ABB had two earlier criminal FCPA resolutions in 2004 and 2010, as well as a guilty plea by an ABB entity for bid rigging in 2001.

The US law on foreign corrupt practices applies to foreign companies with US-issued stock, as is the case with ABB.

The company also settled a parallel civil case with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Earlier Friday, the Swiss attorney general’s office said ABB was fined four million Swiss francs ($4.3 million) in the case. ABB said it hoped to reach a resolution with German authorities in the near term.

In total, ABB said the settlements totaled $327 million, and have been accounted for in the company’s third quarter financial results.