Switzerland has frozen several bank accounts as part of an international operation against money laundering. Some 50 arrests were made in Italy.This content was published on June 10, 2002 - 16:54
The federal police office told swissinfo that the accounts had been frozen in response to a request for legal assistance from Rome. A spokesman refused to give further details, saying only that the accounts blocked were held at banks in Ticino, St Gallen and Geneva.
The move was part of a global operation, centred on Italy, where police said they had arrested 50 people overnight in cities across the country. They added that a further 150 people were under investigation.
Italian police said they were coordinating their activities with their counterparts in Switzerland, Germany, France, Monaco and the FBI in the United States, as part of a global swoop codenamed "Operation Spiderweb".
During the arrests, Italian police seized luxury properties, cars and goods worth €3 million (SFr4.42 million), and froze 300 bank accounts. Police said two accounts alone contained €4 million.
"We got our hands on an international organisation with a Russian base which has links to European organised crime and in order to reinvest its money used a complex money laundering web," said Francesco Gratteri, head of the Italian police department which coordinates international operations.
Italian investigators were quoted as saying that the money had originated in Russia and was "laundered" through banks in New York before being sent to Europe, where it was invested in legitimate businesses and deposited in bank accounts.
Pierluigi Vigna, Italy's national anti-mafia prosecutor, described the operation as "very important" because it revealed how organised crime laundered ill-gotten gains by buying and selling companies and financial instruments.
swissinfo with agencies