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Prosecutor defends Swiss record on money laundering

Bernard Bertossa said that Switzerland, unlike many other countries, had made substantial efforts to reduce money laundering

(Keystone Archive)

A Geneva prosecutor, Bernard Bertossa, has strongly defended Switzerland's record on money laundering, after a French parliamentary report criticised Switzerland's efforts to combat financial crime as a façade.

In an interview with the French newspaper, "Figaro", on Thursday, Bertossa said Switzerland had been unfairly singled out since Britain, Liechtenstein and Monaco received at least as much money from dubious sources as Switzerland.

He added that Switzerland had made substantial efforts to reduce money laundering, while those financial centres had done almost nothing.

Bertossa told Figaro that Swiss banks had undergone a "revolution" in their attitudes and were now extremely careful in dealing with funds from potentially dubious sources.

Bertossa's comments came after a French parliamentary committee on Wednesday criticised Switzerland for not doing enough to combat money laundering, and for professing to tackle the problem while continuing to handle illicit funds.

The strongly worded report called Switzerland a "predator of world finance" and said it was waging a "sham war" against financial crime.

In his response, Bertossa pointed to Switzerland's recent record in dealing with financial crime, notably its willingness to extend legal cooperation to other countries.

He cited the freezing of Swiss accounts belonging to officials accused of corruption, including African heads of state, and Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, son of the late French president.

Bertossa's comments come after the Swiss finance ministry rejected the report, saying it contradicted the findings of international organisations, which had attested to Switzerland's efforts to combat financial crime.

It said the banking sector had been subject to state anti-money laundering mechanisms since 1991 and 70 per cent of all cases reported as suspicious were followed up.

Swiss authorities said they were considering lodging a formal complaint with the French government over the allegations made in the report.

"We are weighing up the value of a protest," said Giovanni Colombo of the Finance Ministry, accusing the authors of the report of being "arrogant and tendentious."

The Swiss Bankers' Association attacked the French report's main author, Arnaud Montebourg. Spokesman, James Nason, said: "My overall impression is that Mr Montebourg and his team came to Switzerland with their eyes shut, with the sole purpose of confirming their own prejudices."

swissinfo with agencies


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