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Switzerland freezes $15 million in suspect accounts

The Taliban's funds are being frozen and investigated Keystone Archive

Switzerland has blocked 30 accounts containing $15 million (SFr24.9 million) as part of its efforts to cut off the financing of terrorism.

This content was published on November 28, 2001 - 10:17

A spokesman for the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) said the Taliban-related accounts had been frozen in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. The suspect funds were blocked in connection with a United Nations sanctions list.

"The banks must block the accounts on the list and notify us," said Othmar Wyss, head of export control and sanctions at Seco. "Up to now, around 30 accounts were registered with around $15 million."

Wyss gave no further details, but he did add that Swiss banks, or affiliates of foreign banks in Switzerland, froze $150,000 (SFr250,000) prior to the September attacks to comply with an earlier UN sanctions list.

The UN list was enlarged following the attacks on Washington and New York to include names the US had published in its hunt for funds behind the suicide attacks.

The Swiss Federal Banking Commission gave a list of 81 names and false identities to Switzerland's banks, which included the entries on the US's Federal Control List of suspected terrorist funds.

Following the September attacks, the US President, George W Bush, announced a multilateral "war on terrorism", which included military, diplomatic and financial action against terrorists and those who harbour them. Bush highlighted the need to starve terrorists of their funds and launched a campaign to block suspected funds all over the world.

Federal Prosecutor's Office

Earlier this week, the Swiss Federal Prosecutor's office said it had blocked 24 accounts containing a total of $12 million (SFr20 million), but a spokesman for the office decline to say whether funds blocked by Seco were included in this total.

He added that the findings of the prosecutor's office and those of Seco differed because his office is required to establish evidence on every blocked account which would stand up in a court of law. If it fails to do so the accounts have to be unblocked within five days.

However, Seco is able to act on the basis of the UN sanctions list alone, giving it broader blocking powers. It can also keep funds frozen for an indefinite period.

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