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Government seeks concession on money laundering

Switzerland was facing suspension from the Egmont Group Keystone

In response to international pressure, the government has asked parliament to approve a proposal to further dilute banking secrecy, allowing the Swiss Money Laundering Reporting Office (MROS) to pass on banking data to its partners abroad.

The Swiss reporting office is a member of the Egmont Group, an international association of “Financial Intelligence Units”, which since July last year has been threatening to suspend Switzerland.

The MROS, part of the Federal Police Office, is the only member of the 127-strong group that has refused to transmit financial information to fellow authorities.

The intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force, the central global organisation in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, has also hardened its tone on the issue, calling for reporting offices to be obliged to exchange all the information at their disposal.

The revision of the law proposed by the government would allow MROS to hand over concrete financial information to its foreign partners, including bank account numbers, transaction details and account balances – information currently protected by banking secrecy.

The goal is to boost the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism while reinforcing the integrity of the Swiss financial system, the government said.

The proposal is in the interests of the country because Switzerland would also receive information from other reporting offices, some of which are currently not giving any financial information to Switzerland, it added.



According to the Money Laundering Act, MROS is responsible for receiving and analysing suspicious activity reports in connection with money laundering and, if necessary, forwarding them to the law enforcement agencies.

The number of reports on suspicious money transactions in Switzerland received by the reporting office increased by some 40 per cent last year following the Arab Spring uprisings, MROS said in May.

Part of the reason for the increase was a new requirement for Swiss banks and other financial institutions to report shady deals surrounding foreign political events.

The total number of suspicious activity reports presented to the MROS increased from 1,159 in 2010 to 1,625 last year. The sums of money involved in 2011 were higher than in the previous two years combined. Two-thirds of reports came from banks.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR