Ticino clamps down on illegal prostitution

Authorities in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland have taken significant action against illegal prostitution, closing down most of the region's brothels in the last few months.

Ticino clamps down on illegal prostitution
Photo: Kuzma (File)

For the past three months, the Ticino authorities have been cracking down on illegal prostitutes at work in the Italian-speaking canton in an intensive operation named “Operation Domino”, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported.

“We are not against prostitution per se, but against illegal prostitution,” the Ticino chief prosecutor John Noseda told reporters in Lugano.

Investigators have shut down 12 establishments in that time, and a further 11 have closed “voluntarily” in advance of the expected raids. This means that of the 32 brothels doing business in March, only nine now remain open.

The operation has also uncovered disturbing links between prostitution and other crimes such as money laundering, tax fraud and forgery, as well as extortion, violence and human trafficking.

Almost 90 of the 170 women uncovered in the sting came from Romania, with significant numbers coming also from Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Spain and Italy. In contrast, nearly all of the brothel owners or managers came from the Ticino, with up to 90 percent of the clientele coming from Italy.

Charges are expected to be brought against the 11 owners arrested. It is unlikely that any action can be taken against those involved in the brothels that shut down prior to the police raids.

“In this case, any action is almost impossible as we have no evidence,” Nosada said.

The aim of the operation was to force the women to register and pay taxes. Throughout the year, the authorities have recorded an increase in the number of women joining the tax system, with 249 having registered so far this year.

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Ticino officials ask government to reintroduce checks at Swiss-Italian border

With a number of cases of mutated coronavirus detected in a retirement home and middle school, the canton wants Swiss federal authorities to better monitor cross-border traffic.

Ticino officials ask government to reintroduce checks at Swiss-Italian border
Ticino wants better checks at the Italian border. Photo by AFP

About 70,000 workers from Italy commute each day to their jobs in Ticino, but “the significant cross-border flow appears only partially linked to professional reasons”, cantonal officials said in a statement released this week

Worried that people entering the canton from Italy will spread the new Covid variant, Ticino officials asked the Federal Council “to introduce systematic controls at the border and to close minor crossings, except for the crossings most used by health sector workers”.

The recent decree of Italy’s government limits travel between Italian regions but not towards neighbouring states.

Switzerland’s border with Italy has been open since June 15th, 2020, after being closed for three months during the first wave of the pandemic. At that time, only cross-border workers were allowed to come to Ticino.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Cross-border train service between Switzerland and Italy to continue running 

Since the re-opening, border checks have been random and sporadic.

Ticino authorities added that “it would also be desirable to systematically subject travellers returning to Switzerland from travel abroad, in particular from risk areas, to rapid coronavirus tests”.

The Federal Council has not yet responded to Ticino’s request. 

Entry into Switzerland from France, Germany and Austria is also allowed, except for the quarantine requirement that may be in place at the time of arrival.

From January 15th, travellers from Germany’s Land Sachsen and Italy’s Region Veneto must quarantine for 10 days upon entering in Switzerland. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland's quarantine rules?