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Police seize bank documents in Liechtenstein

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(Keystone)

There has been a new twist to the money-laundering affair that has hit Switzerland's neighbour, Liechtenstein. Police have seized documents from the Liechtenstein Global Trust (LGT) which is controlled by Prince Hans Adam II and his family.

In a communiqué, police said that an investigation had shown that foreign and domestic companies with links to people suspected of money laundering, had accounts at the LGT.

It said that since the companies were "strongly suspected" of being guilty of money laundering, police had seized documents and electronic data concerning the accounts.

The communiqué added that the responsibility of the bank had yet to be determined and it was not known if bank employees knew about dubious transactions made through the LGT. It said there were no signs at present that would lead to charges against the bank.

The money laundering accusations have shaken the principality since they were revealed earlier this year by the German secret service. The Austrian public prosecutor, Kurt Spitzer, has confirmed that all the principality's banks are concerned by the ongoing investigation.

In the fiduciary sector, eight people have been arrested since mid-May, including two parliamentarians. Three people from Liechtenstein, two Austrians and a Swiss were later released.

Liechtenstein could face potential economic sanctions if a review panel puts it on a blacklist of countries that fail to combat money laundering.

A review of Liechtenstein by the Financial Action Task Force, founded in 1989 by the Group of Seven industrial countries, is due out later this month. In particular, it is expected that it will look at the principality's role as an offshore financial centre.

On Thursday, the Swiss finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, said Switzerland could not intervene directly in the affair because Liechtenstein was a sovereign state. He rejected a proposal to open an inquiry into alleged links between financial institutions in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

However, he added that the Swiss government was in close contact with the Liechtenstein authorities. Liechtenstein and Switzerland have a currency union whereby the Swiss franc is used in the principality.

swissinfo with agencies

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