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Current laws enough to dissuade dictators, according to cabinet

The government has rejected a call from parliament to create a special commission to oversee deposits in Swiss banks made by foreign heads of state. It said current laws were satisfactory.

The government added that controlling such deposits would be a potential foreign policy embarrassment and not compatible with banking secrecy rules.

It said the Federal Banking Commission already had strong measures at its disposal for locating dirty money and dissuading foreign leaders from placing illegally obtained funds in Swiss accounts.

The government pointed in particular to a new law on money laundering which obliges financial institutions to report dubious transactions, and to a law on corruption under which laundering money derived from corruption abroad is punishable.

The parliamentary motion, put forward by a Social Democrat from Geneva, Christian Grobet, proposed setting up a special commission to which banks would report any deposits from foreign leaders exceeding SFr1 million.

The motion followed the discovery last year of more than SFr1 billion in Swiss accounts belonging to the late Nigerian leader, Sani Abacha, and others close to him.

Grobet said the Abacha case showed that Swiss banks still do not respect pledges they have made to turn away or report suspicious money. He said it seriously damaged Switzerland’s reputation.

Meanwhile, an official in neighbouring Liechtenstein says the principality has frozen accounts in three banks thought to be linked with Abacha. He said the freeze had been ordered on Monday in response to efforts by the Nigerian government to recover more than SFr3 billion it claims Abacha siphoned away from government coffers.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR