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Suspected money laundering made record in 2008: Swiss govt

  Switzerland, on the ‘grey list’ of tax havens, saw a surge in suspected activities related to money laundering in 2008, with assets worth an all-time high $ 1.65 billion involved in them.

After the world’s top 20 economies resolved to crack down on tax havens worldwide at a meeting here last week, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) named Switzerland among countries not having substantially implemented international tax standards.

This classification put Switzerland on the ‘grey list’ of tax havens, but Switzerland reacted sharply to such descriptions and said it was not actually a ‘tax haven’.

However, the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) has said in a report that the number of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) in connection with money laundering jumped from 795 in 2007 to 851 last year.

This included nine related to suspected terror financing and involved assets worth over CHF 1 million ($884,600).

“The increase was due mainly to the greater volume of reports from the banking sector, which reached a new record high. The total value of assets involved doubled to reach an all-time high of CHF 1.87 billion ($1.65 billion),” the FDJP said in a statement.

In 2008, the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS) received 851 SARs, with nearly 67% of them coming from the banking sector. Among them, most were related to investment fraud.

The statement noted that third on the list of offences was bribery related to individual corruption, which, due to their complexity involving numerous businesses, generated several SARs.

“Although the acts of corruption took place abroad, the suspected bribe money was deposited in Switzerland,” it added.

Interestingly, Opposition parties in India have said that assets worth about $ 1.5 trillion are stashed away in Swiss banks by Indian citizens.

The FDJP said that in the CHF 1.87 billion, three SARs totaling CHF 700 million ($ 620.5 million) are involved. Among them, two cases involved fraud while the other one was related to corruption.

This included a single report involving an asset value of CHF 942,000 ($834,999) and the case was forwarded to the appropriate prosecuting authority, which subsequently dismissed the case.

“None of the incoming SARs relating to terrorist financing was based on the State Secretariat for Economic Affair’s so-called Taliban Regulations.

All but one SAR with an unclear economic background were based on information received from third parties (press reports, information from third persons or prosecuting authorities) indicating possible terrorist involvement.”

“After careful scrutiny, MROS forwarded seven of the nine SARs to the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland, which has in the meantime dismissed or suspended three of the cases. Four cases are pending,” the statement noted. (The Economic Times)