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Swiss justice minister calls for tougher laws against money laundering

The Justice Minister, Ruth Metzler, has called for tougher laws to fight money laundering in Switzerland. However, she resisted calls to restrict Swiss banking secrecy.

The Justice Minister, Ruth Metzler, has called for tougher laws to fight money laundering in Switzerland. She said existing legislation had been successful, but that it now needed to be extended. However, she resisted calls to restrict Swiss banking secrecy.

Ruth Metzler’s address to journalists in Geneva was long on rhetoric, but short on detail. She called for a tightening of laws to combat money laundering, but did not specify what should be done.

Significantly, she dismissed calls by Swiss magistrates and neighbouring European countries to further restrict banking secrecy laws.

Her comments come against a background of numerous money laundering investigations currently being pursued by the Swiss authorities. Most concern foreign dignitaries or organised crime, and range from suspected drug trafficking to allegations of political corruption or embezzlement across several continents.

Neighbouring European governments, as well as some Swiss magistrates, have appealed to the Swiss authorities to tighten up banking secrecy laws. They want tax evasion outlawed because they say it is frequently used to disguise criminal proceeds.

In Geneva, Metzler reiterated her resistance to tightening banking secrecy laws, saying money laundering and tax evasion are not necessarily linked. She said there is sufficient leeway under current legislation to prosecute criminal acts.

Metzler also touched on other issues, including the integration of foreigners in Switzerland.

She vowed to press on with her new policy on integration, despite a recent uproar triggered by the resignation of the head of the Federal Commission on Foreigners, Fulvio Caccia.

Caccia resigned two weeks ago in protest at a government decision to place his Commission under the control of the Federal Office for Foreigners, whose remit includes running the police office for foreigners and issuing permits.

Caccia argued that having one body deal with integration as well as police matters relating to foreigners would hardly persuade immigrants that their best interests were paramount.

But Ruth Metzler rejected such arguments, saying she wanted to “correct any misunderstanding”. She said “The Federal Office for Foreigners is not a police body which deals with foreigners but one which plays an important role in the execution of policy towards foreigners”.

She added that the Office had taken over Caccia’s commission “to get rid of duplication and to accelerate information where it’s necessary”.

From staff and wire reports

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