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House of Representatives rejects tighter controls for banks

The House of Representatives has come out against tightening controls on Swiss banks to prevent money laundering scandals.

The House followed the finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, who said current regulations were sufficient to uncover illegal assets and discourage dubious customers from placing their money in Swiss banks.

In a speech to the House on Wednesday, Villiger rejected allegations that the government was purposely ignoring loopholes in the legislation. He said Switzerland had some of the strictest regulations.

Villiger was responding to a call by a member of parliament, Christian Grobet, who wanted to force banks to report any deposits worth more than SFr1 million belonging to foreign heads of state and dignitaries to the banking watchdog body.

He said the scandal surrounding the late Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha, who stashed away assets worth SFr1 billion in banks had damaged Switzerland's image as a financial centre. The case came to light last year.

Several banks were heavily criticised last month for accepting the funds from Abacha and his family, who are suspected of embezzling the money from Nigeria's central bank during his reign from 1994 to 1998.

Swiss banks have been in the spotlight over the past few years for accepting illicit money, notably from heads of state from Africa, including the former president of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, and from dubious sources in Russia.

swissinfo with agencies

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