Government revamps money laundering control authority

Dina Balleyguier (with Peter Siegenthaler) says the authority will now clear its backlog of cases Keystone

The Swiss government has nearly completed the reorganization of its money laundering control authority.

This content was published on January 18, 2002 minutes

The government announced on Friday it had followed through on a number of parliamentary recommendations to improve the work of the division of the finance ministry that supervises certain activities in the banking sector.

A report from the House of Representatives last June had criticised the implementation of parts of the federal money-laundering act, in particular the authority's organization.

Since last autumn, the office has seen the number of its employees increase three-fold to 21, with another four positions to be filled by summer, according to the head of the federal finance administration, Peter Siegenthaler.

Changes have also been implemented in the way the authority deals with financial intermediaries. "Rather than follow an aggressive approach, we decided to favour talking with intermediaries," said Dina Balleyguier, the head of the authority.

Hundreds of companies have failed to register with the authority or one of the 12 self-regulating bodies since the end of the transitory period two years ago. "Some of these companies still don't realize they have to register," said Siegenthaler.

Issuing warnings

The authority has so far only issued warnings to those who have failed to make themselves known, but sanctions, including fines or even liquidation, will eventually be applied.

A large backlog of registration requests - 546 - also have to be dealt with by the authority, which has so far only managed give out 11 permits to financial intermediaries. This backlog should be cleared out rapidly though according to Balleyguier.

Part of the problem has been a failure to clearly define who is concerned by the money laundering act. The authority plans on releasing new guidelines this spring.

The authority has already decided the raw material traders will be dealt with according to their type of activities. As for shell companies, only their Swiss representatives will be concerned by the money laundering act.

New rules will also establish the cut-off point for compulsory audits.

An independent appeal commission is also in the works. It will take over from the finance ministry's legal department, which also acts in an advisory capacity as well as prosecuting intermediaries acting outside the law.

The government has decided to shut down the authority's advisory board, according to the parliamentary recommendations, despite its own misgivings.

The representatives' report had highlighted problems between the commission's president, Peter Nobel, and the former head of the authority, Niklaus Huber.

swissinfo with agencies

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