• In 2021, Swiss courts heard 68 cases of white-collar crime, including seven cases related to COVID-19 credits.
  • Total losses amounted to CHF 567 million, with a single fraud case accounting for CHF 300 million.
  • Public institutions were most frequently affected by white-collar crime (25 out of 68 cases).
  • Private individuals are the largest group of perpetrators, followed by management and professional fraudsters.
  • Most cases were tried in Zurich, the largest in the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona.

 

According to the latest KPMG Forensic Fraud Barometer, Swiss courts dealt with 68 cases of white-collar crime in 2021, in which the loss amount was at least CHF 50,000. The total losses of CHF 567 million were 37 percent higher than in the previous year and included one case representing a loss of CHF 300 million. However, since experience shows that many cases are never even reported, the actual figures for white-collar crime are likely to be several times higher.

Public institutions most frequently affected by white-collar crime

With 25 out of a total of 68 cases heard by the courts, public institutions were particularly frequently targeted by white-collar criminals. In seven cases, there were convictions related to unlawfully obtained COVID-19-credits. "I expect that we will see more such cases in the next editions of our Fraud Barometer due to a lag effect," explains Anne van Heerden, Head of Forensic at KPMG.

The second most court cases related to white-collar crime involved commercial companies - with a loss amount of CHF 134 million. Financial institutions were victims in only three cases, yet included a single fraud case accounting for CHF 300 million – more than half of the total loss accounted for in 2021.

Fig. 1: White-collar crime by victim

White-collar crime by victim

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Private individuals were largest group of perpetrators

Professional fraudsters were replaced by private individuals as the largest perpetrator group in 2021. This group accounted for 23 out of 68 of all white-collar crime tried. The average loss amount was around CHF 700,000. 

With 18 cases totaling more than CHF 123 million, employees in executive functions ("management") were the second largest perpetrator group. The average loss amount per case was almost CHF 7 million, almost ten times higher than the offender group of private individuals.

"The crime amounts caused by managers are generally higher than those of private individuals or employees. The management often has both insider information and is in a strong position to use this information for criminal purposes," explains Anne van Heerden.

Fig. 2: White-collar crime by perpetrator

White-collar crime by perpetrator

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Most cases in Zurich, largest in Bellinzona

Zurich was the most affected region by white-collar crime last year: with 22 out of 68 cases, it accounted for nearly a third of the convictions, compared to eight in the previous year. In the Lemanic region, which recorded the most white-collar cases in 2020 with 19, only six cases were heard in 2021.

The largest cases of white-collar crime were heard at the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, including the largest case with a loss amount of CHF 300 million. The average loss amount of the largest six cases was more than CHF 70 million. Even excluding the largest single case of CHF 300 million, the average loss amounts in Bellinzona were several times higher than those in the other regions.

Fig. 3: White-collar crime by region

White-collar crime by region

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Insurance and social security fraud most frequent offense type

The most frequent offense type in 2021 was (social) insurance fraud with 20 cases tried in court, compared to eight cases in 2020. This is partly due to the seven fraud cases related to COVID-19 credits mentioned earlier. "White-collar criminals try to exploit new legal regimes and loopholes in the system immediately and specifically for their own purposes," explains Anne van Heerden. "Unsurprisingly, this was also the case with COVID-19 credits."

Also on the rise last year were court cases involving scams. In these cases, perpetrators convince the victim to make an advance payment under false pretenses, but the agreed-upon or promised compensation never materializes. 

Fig. 4: White-collar crime by type

White-collar crime by type

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Methodology

The KPMG Forensic Fraud Barometer covers all court cases tried in public and reported in the media over the course of the year. Data for the study was compiled by analyzing more than 5,000 relevant articles from several different Swiss media outlets in 2021. The current edition of the KPMG Forensic Fraud Barometer only included articles concerning cases of white-collar crimes that have resulted in convictions and involved losses in excess of CHF 50,000.

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