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Former anti-money laundering chief criticises government

Huber said he wanted to increase the Control Authority's staff of eight to around 40

(Keystone Archive)

The former head of Switzerland's Money Laundering Control Authority, Niklaus Huber, has accused the government of not doing enough to fight financial crime two days after a parliamentary report found the government had not taken problems at the Control Authority seriously enough.

In several newspaper interviews on Sunday, Huber said he hoped the Swiss finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, "would follow the recommendations the parliamentary commission made" to help the anti-money laundering body become more effective.

Of primary importance, Huber noted that the Control Authority needed to remain independent. "A body also needs to be set up to appeal court decisions," Huber added.

In June, Huber followed a string of high-profile anti-money laundering officials and resigned. Allegations of "increasingly diverging views" with finance ministry officials and pleas for more staff and funds highlighted growing tensions between the government and the bank supervisory body.

Two key figures, Daniel Thelesklaf and Mark Van Thiel, resigned from the Control Authority in August, citing a lack of sufficient powers to fight financial crime. Four more staff followed.

The turmoil prompted a parliamentary investigation into the Control Authority. The report, published on Friday, criticised Villiger for not taking the problems seriously enough. It also accused him of failing to act when the Control Authority was clearly in disarray.

The report claims Villiger did not do enough to defend the money laundering legislation from its opponents in the Swiss banking and financial sector.

Villiger rejected the suggestion that the report was a blanket criticism and preferred to interpret the report in a positive light.

"Of course there have been mistakes...but I'm of the opinion that since at least last autumn the problems have been recognised and ironed out," Villiger told the "SonntagsZeitung".

The Control Authority was established in 1998 to enforce Switzerland's money laundering legislation. The law was hailed as the step that would correct Switzerland's image, regarded by many in the country as unjustified, as a haven for dirty money, while protecting its banking secrecy regulations.

Under the new legislation, bank employees were required to report suspicious investments. Those in the non-banking sector, such as lawyers and fund managers, were supposed to join self-regulatory bodies.

swissinfo with agencies

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