Criminal Liability of Legal Entities

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Thursday, April 1, 2004
Schellenberg Wittmer
Until recently, only individuals were subject to criminal liability in Switzerland. Now, as of 1 October 2003, business enterprises, including legal entities, can be punished and fined for criminal conduct up to 5 million Swiss Francs. According to the new provision of criminal law, an enterprise can become the target of a criminal sanction if a person within the enterprise commits an offence and that person cannot be identified. However, the enterprise?s liability requires that the failure to identify the offender is due to a lack of organization within the enterprise. In relation to a few specific offences ? that are highly relevant in the practice of criminal law ?, an enterprise can be held liable even if the actual offender has been identified. This increased criminal liability will arise in connection with the offences of participating in a criminal organization, money laundering, bribery, corruption and financing of terrorism. If any of these offences is committed within the enterprise, with or without the knowledge of the management, the enterprise will be held responsible, if the enterprise has not put into place the necessary measures to prevent such offences...[more]