Switzerland is to enter into a legal cooperation agreement with Hong Kong as part of efforts to clamp down on money laundering. The deal - approved by the Swiss senate on Tuesday - is the first between Switzerland and an Asian country.
Commenting before the senate vote, the justice minister, Ruth Metzler, described the agreement as the most detailed of its kind, saying it fulfilled the requirements of both the Council of Europe's convention on money laundering and the European convention on legal assistance.
She said the agreement had nothing to do with China because Hong Kong secured the right to enter into economic and legal agreements independently of Beijing when Britain relinquished control of the territory in 1997.
She added that the agreement could be altered or cancelled if Beijing changed the terms of its relationship with Hong Kong at any point in the future.
The agreement enables Switzerland and Hong Kong to share information and evidence in suspected criminal cases, and to transfer prisoners. They are also able to request that assets be frozen and transferred between the two financial centres.
Metzler said the deal would lead to much closer cooperation in the fight against financial crime, and that it would serve as a model for future agreements between Switzerland and other Asian states.
She added that talks were underway to seal similar agreements with the Philippines and Singapore.
Switzerland already has legal cooperation agreements with France, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
swissinfo with agencies