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Revealing report Switzerland still ‘attractive location’ for money laundering

Switzerland has long struggled with money laundering issues

(Keystone)

Switzerland is still an attractive location for laundering the proceeds of crime mostly committed abroad, experts have said.

The first ever report on the national assessment of the money laundering and terrorist financing risks in Switzerland, drawn up by an interdepartmental working group, put the country at medium-risk in most areas, including for banks.

It comes amid a corruption scandal surrounding Zurich-based FIFA, world football's governing body. 

Current legislation takes “appropriate account” overall of the risks identified, according to a statement issued by the State Secretariat for International Financial Matters (SIF)external link on Friday. But at the same time experts recommended measures to strengthen the effectiveness of the anti-money laundering and terrorist financing system.

The government said it acknowledged the report. It will make its recommendations to parliament after reviewing the text.

The report found the main threats for the Swiss financial sector were “fraud, embezzlement, corruption and participation in a criminal organisation”.

The highest risk was to the area of “universal banks”, although the statement said that vulnerabilities were reduced by the anti-money laundering measures in place.

Money laundering tied to sporting organisations was not part of the report.

Terrorist financing

The analysis also revealed a limited risk for terrorist financing which could have a significant impact, however, if it occurred.

Systematic exploitation of alternative money transfer systems in Switzerland by terrorist networks could also increase the risk.

The financial intermediaries most exposed to the threat of terrorist financing are banks and money and value transmitting services providers and the credit business.

Overall the working group, which includes members of the SIF, the Federal Tax Administration, the Justice Ministry and Federal Intelligence Service, came up with eight measures for consolidating the current system, including promoting dialogue between the private and private sectors as well as developing and systemising statistics.

It also recommended looking into areas not covered by the present anti-money laundering law, such as free ports and the commodities industry.

Commodities trading

The working group said that the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS) had received a number of notifications from banks regarding suspicious deals in commodities trading.

Switzerland is the world's largest trading hub for crude oil and iron ore.

Two thirds of these suspicious notifications involved transactions made by companies located outside of Switzerland, a problem when tracking red-alert deals, the working group said in its report.

"Switzerland is running the risk of being abused as a platform for money laundering by certain commodities trading parties," it said.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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