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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
Zug: Switzerland's 'offshore island'
Paramedics
Until the shooting Zug had seen nothing on this scale
Many people outside Switzerland had never heard of the canton of Zug until a man opened fire in its regional assembly, killing 14 people in one of the most violent incidents the country has seen.

Press releases from the Zug police force before the horrific shootings detail the usual incidents of small-town life: a break-in at the schoolhouse in Feldheim, a collision between a cyclist and a car.

Map of Switzerland
Certainly, the region had seen nothing on the scale of Thursday's events.

With only 93,000 inhabitants - 22,300 of them in the regional capital, Zug - it is tucked between Zurich and Lucerne.

But the idyllic Alpine foothills are not as squeaky clean as they might first appear.

Magnet for wealth

The region is rich, even by Swiss standards. Its main appeal is as a tax haven - though being Switzerland this makes it known locally as a tax paradise.

What the official website coyly describes as its "economically friendly environment" draws business from nearby Zurich, particularly electronics industries.

It is a magnet for the wealthy, including a large international contingent which makes up 19% of the population.

Some simply maintain an address in the region in order to reap its benefits.

Undesirables

Unsurprisingly, it also draws some of the less desirable elements of the financial world.

Mark Eisenecker, a sociologist at Zurich University, says that when Zug hits the headlines at all, it is with stories of money-laundering and other financial crimes.

Paramedics
The Swiss are shocked that violence has come to their doorsteps
The diamond giant De Beers has a large base there and questions have been raised about the trading of diamonds from conflict zones through the region.

And whenever something "financially questionable" occurs, says Mr Eisenecker, all eyes tend to turn to Zug, which serves as a kind of "offshore island" within landlocked Switzerland.

But, he says, few are linking the shootings to any potential skeletons in Zug's cupboards.

Still shaken by the dramatic events in New York, Swiss are wondering how violence can erupt once again - but this time on their doorstep, where they always felt so safe.

See also:

27 Sep 01 | Europe
Gunman kills 14 in Swiss assembly
30 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Switzerland
16 Jan 01 | Europe
Timeline: Switzerland
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