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Money laundering hits the headlines

The vexed issue of money laundering in Switzerland made the news again this week. The possible misuse of Swiss bank accounts was highlighted by two separate cases.

In the first, the justice authorities sent back to Ukraine SFr10.5 million ($5.9 million) confiscated from the former prime minister, Pavlo Lazarenko.

Lazarenko is believed to have embezzled billions of francs from the Ukrainian state. In June, a court in Geneva sentenced him to 18 months in jail for money laundering.

The second case involves money deposited in Swiss banks by Peru’s former spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, who is at the centre of a political crisis in the country. The Swiss embassy in Lima urged Peru to open an investigation after the authorities found SFr85 million ($48 million) stashed in three Swiss accounts.

In other financial news, there was good news for consumers, with a further dip reported in annual inflation. The figure for October was 1.9 per cent, down from 2.3 per cent the month before.

However, the Federal Statistics Office said that were it not for high fuel price rises, inflation in October would have been a mere 0.4 per cent.

The Sixth Alpine Conference took place in Lucerne this week, with the aim of coordinating the use and protection of the Alps. Switzerland used the occasion to sign three protocols covering transport, energy and the settlement of disputes.

During the two-day meeting, the environment and transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger, called on alpine nations to boost public transport. He said public transport was both environmentally friendly and could prevent a breakdown of the road system.

Leuenberger’s colleague in government, Ruth Dreifuss, this week added to the growing debate over the teaching of English as a first language in schools. The interior minister made it clear she wanted to see the teaching of a second national language – German, French or Italian – take precedence over English.

Dreifuss’s statement came as cantonal education directors met to discuss introducing English at an earlier stage in the curriculum.

In sport, the contest to win Switzerland’s nomination to host the 2010 Winter Olympics began in earnest this week. The two rival bids – Zurich/Graubünden and Berne/Montreux – presented their cases to the national Olympic Association.

Both sides were at pains to underline their environmental credentials, as well as their first-class sporting facilities. And both were keen to avoid the mistakes made by the Swiss town of Sion, which lost its bid to host the 2006 winter games.

swissinfo with agencies



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