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Another brick in the wall


While most financial sector lobby groups fight against "excessive" regulation, the Swiss Association of Trust Companies (SATC) is actually calling on the government to deliver more of the stuff.

The secretive, highly layered and multi-jurisdictional trust fund industry has attracted bad headlines ever since the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists uncovered a documentary trail of trusts that led from Singapore to the British Virgin Islands.

The inference behind those headlines is that trusts are being used to launder criminal funds and dodge taxes – although no hard evidence of immoral activity has been presented so far.

Officially, Switzerland does not have a trust fund industry, or at least no domestic laws or regulations that support it. But there are still some 500 Swiss entities and countless lawyers that are involved in setting them up or running them.

That worries the SATC, that last year pleaded with the government to set up a regulatory framework to govern their activities. This would help to weed out the “black sheep”, SATC chairman Alexandre von Heeren told

“If you have a brick you could build a house or throw it through the window. The fault does not lie with the brick,” he added, alluding to some sharp practices within the industry.

And the legitimate purposes of the Anglo-Saxon trust? To efficiently organise the assets of companies or wealthy families in multiple countries – either to run those assets in the best interests of all beneficiaries or help dole out inheritance.

Matthew Allen,

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR