The Chair on Criminal Law and Criminology of Prof. Pieth and his team focus both on international economic crime and domestic criminal law. Based on 25 years as an international and national regulator (notably as Chairman of the OECD Working Group on Bribery, as Member of the FATF, as Chairman of a UN Intergovernmental Committee, but also as Head of the Section on Economic and Organized Crime of the Swiss Ministry of Justice) the Chair on Criminal Law has established an academic reputation in particular in the areas of anti-corruption and anti-money laundering.

Money Laundering

On the international level, the starting point for the development of anti-money laundering principles was the 'war on drugs', which culminated in the UN treaty criminalizing money laundering and establishing the range of topics for all further legal developments. The position changed dramatically in the 1990s with the expansion of money laundering to all serious crimes as predicate offences, including the abuse of power so that it has now become a tool in the repatriation of assets. Soft law, i.e. non-binding Recommendations that are primarily addressed at governments and regulators rather than the industry itself, has developed in tandem with international law. The focus here has been on customer due diligence and detailed work has been accomplished by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, and the Financial Action Task Force. The original 'Forty Recommendations' of this latter body were revised to cover money laundering in relation to all serious crime and were revised further in continuously since. The Recommendations comprise the international standards for countries and require the implementation of: criminal law, rules to prevent money laundering, supervisory rules on the financial and non-financial sectors and provisions for international co-operation. Following the terrorist attacks in the USA, this body extended its remit by addressing the problems of the financing of terrorism and developing recommendations specific to this problem. The Financial Action Task Force has also exerted pressure on non-members through its work on non-co-operative countries and territories which defined criteria consistent with its Recommendations for jurisdictions defined as 'offshore centers'. International initiatives and national law have since shifted towards a risk based approach which takes greater account of the practical application of standards by the industry itself. The approach also details obligations in the client acceptance procedure and ongoing monitoring.

The team has followed this process and has widely published on the evolution of AMC-Rules.

Financing of Terrorism

Terrorist financing is a topic that shot into the limelight after the events of September 11, 2001. The major industrialized states decided to focus in particular on the Financing of Terrorism.The call to arms has been complemented by a concerted effort world-wide to track down and freeze the assets of suspected terrorists. Financial institutions have risen to these challenges contributing their expertise gathered mostly through techniques to combat money laundering. The UN is at regular intervals publishing lists of names whose funds need to be frozen. Procedures are, from a point of view of the rights of the defendant, still less than satisfactory. They are constantly under review. Bankers, regulators and academics pose a variety of questions from their professional perspectives: What can financial institutions realistically contribute to the suppression of terrorist financing? Can individual rights be protected under these circumstances?

Again the team has published books and articles on these issues.

Growing political and ideological radicalization

The research team is increasingly concerned about the growing radicalization of certain segments of society and the growing risk to every day life. Nevertheless, it is working on a critical view of simplistic legal recipes: Neither an aggressive "law and order"-attitude nor a withdrawal to the values of the 19 century can be considered satisfactory. Together with colleagues of the University of Bremen in Germany we are working on alternative approaches, seeking to combine public safety with respect of the rule of law.


The fight against corruption has gained unprecedented momentum over the past 25 years. The international community has taken a strong and concerted effort against corruption through a number of treaties and conventions such as the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (1997) or the UN Convention against Corruption (2003), and by promoting governance and anti-corruption programs in the cooperation with partner countries in development. The MDB's have helped change the political agenda markedly. We have seen the translation of these instruments results into increased regulatory pressure on companies and higher risks for corrupt public officials. In addition to legal risks, companies caught bribing also suffer from reputational damage which can seriously cripple their business, not to speak of the resulting financial risks that may be immense both in terms of fines and business lost. At the same time, senior public officials around the world are increasingly held accountable for corrupt practices during their time in office.

The team has published widely as well as continued to influence the public agenda in this area.

Corporate Liability

Driven by international initiatives to combat economic and organized crime (cf. on corruption, money laundering, cybercrime, trafficking in human beings, sexual exploitation of juveniles etc.). Corporate liability has evolved into a standard requirement for domestic criminal law. The approaches differ (between "vicarious liability", "identification models" and "objective approaches"). However, there is a worldwide convergence towards a due diligence approach (holding companies responsible for their disorganization and lack of supervision). The chair on criminal law has worked an published on the topic since 2001.

The team is working in particular on the relation of new standards for corporations of human rights ("the Ruggie Priniciples") and their impact on corporate liability.


The Basel Institute on Governance is an independent and non-profit think tank conducting research and offering policy advice and capacity building support in public, global and corporate governance/compliance. Through the International Centre for Asset Recovery, it further provides training and advisory services in the field of asset recovery and mutual legal assistance. Beyond asset recovery the Basel Institute on Governance has been asked by B20 (the sister organization to G20 of large businesses) to act as a hub for collective action in the area of anti-corruption. The Institute combines scientific methodology (in particular in the area of "public governance") with practical experience and seeks to engage partners from all concerned stakeholder groups. Based in Switzerland and associated with the University of Basel, it brings together internationally recognized academics as well as practitioners with long-standing experience in the matters at stake.

Mark Pieth co-founded the Basel Institute on Governance, he acts as Chairman of the Board.

Competence Centre: Arbitration and Crime

Many large contracts include arbitration clauses. Increasingly, both in commercial and in investment arbitration, arbitrators are confronted with allegations of illegal acts like fraud, corruption, money laundering or bid rigging etc. Parties and arbitrators are typically in a delicate situation as they lack the support of law enforcement agencies and coercive measures. The allegations of illegality can be an powerful weapon fi substantiated. However, they are also used as an easy way to skirt obligations. Dealing with illegality poses problems of a substantive nature. But the rules of evidence also frequently require expertise. The Competence Centre Arbitration and Crime combines such expertise.

Swiss Domestic Criminal Law

In a series of text books the team provides Swiss law students and practitioners with a complementary overview of a substantive criminal law, criminal procedure and the history of criminal law.

Compare especially:

  • Mark Pieth, Strafrecht Besonderer Teil, Helbing Lichtenhahn Verlag, Basel 2014.
  • Mark Pieth, Wirtschaftsstrafrecht, Helbing Lichtenhahn Verlag, Basel 2016.
  • Mark Pieth, Schweizerisches Strafprozessrecht, 3. überarbeitete Auflage, Helbing Lichtenhahn Verlag, Basel 2016.
  • Mark Pieth, Strafrechtsgeschichte, Helbing Lichtenhahn, Basel 2015.
  • Mark Pieth/Stephanie Eymann/Ingeborg Zerbes, Fallsammlung Strafrecht BT, 2. ergänzte und überarbeitete Auflage, Helbing Lichtenhahn Verlag, Basel 2014.
  • Stefan Trechsel/Peter Noll/Mark Pieth, Schweizerisches Strafrecht, Allgemeiner Teil, 7. Auflage, Zürich 2017. (publication in August/September 2017)
  • Stefan Trechsel/Mark Pieth (Hrsg.), Schweizerisches Strafgesetzbuch, Praxiskommentar, 3. Auflage, Zürich/St. Gallen 2017. (publication in December 2017)