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Anti-money laundering officials resign over internal dispute

Anti money laundering officials have a heavy workload, with some 500 dossiers still to be tackled


Four of the finance ministry's six officials charged with combating money laundering within financial institutions have resigned. The news was reported by the SonntagsZeitung newspaper and confirmed by Dieter Leutwyler, a ministry spokesman.

An internal dispute within the Money Laundering Control Authority, reportedly linked to procedural matters, led to the resignations of the officials, including that of the deputy director, Michele Tonelli.

Tonelli had recently taken up the position, having already left a job within the ministry in mid-year.

Leutwyler said personal matters and a strong job market were the main reasons behind the resignations. He said some employees had accepted jobs in the private sector, which is known to pay far higher salaries.

He added that the high exposure the anti-money laundering jobs bring, and the heavy workload, were also likely to have been contributing factors.

"There is a lot to be done," he said, "and we are understaffed." There are reportedly about 500 money laundering dossiers that have yet to be dealt with.

Analysts say frustration is rife among officials because of the inadequate means at their disposal to fight the crime.

The resignations are not the first among those charged with fighting money laundering in Switzerland.

Two top officials within the justice ministry, Daniel Thelesklaf and Mark Van Thiel, stepped down recently.

They accused the government of failing to come up with a clear strategy for dealing with the problem of money laundering.

The two had been trying unsuccessfully to persuade the government to give their office more power.

In Switzerland, the prosecution of money laundering cases is done at a cantonal level.

If a bank, or other financial institution, is suspicious of a transaction, it is required to inform the Federal Money Laundering Reporting Office in Berne.

Thelesklaf and Van Thiel were the heads of that office.

swissinfo with agencies

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