Swiss Notification Regime For Money Laundering Activities Under Scrutiny

Author:Dr. Thomas Rihm
Profession:Rihm Attorneys
 
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Last year, the Swiss Money Laundering Office (MROS) received a blatant message from one of its foreign partner organisations: two not-for profit organisations were holders of Swiss bank accounts whereby the beneficial owner of the bank accounts was suspected of terrorist activities. But MROS as part of the Swiss Federal Police (Fedpol) could not respond to the inquiry.

"So far, Switzerland may only comply with the request of a foreign authority if a suspicious transaction had been received by a Swiss bank or another Swiss financial intermediary."

MROS was even prohibited from pursuing the information on its own: neither can it make separate inquiries with the banks concerned nor may it pass such information on to the public federal or state prosecutors. The reason for this is Article 11a of the Swiss Money Laundering Act. This provision stipulates that Switzerland may only comply with the request of a foreign authority if a suspicious transaction has already been received by a Swiss bank or another Swiss financial intermediary. If this is not the case, MROS cannot act.

Last year alone, MROS received 4'165 inquiries from abroad, according to the Fedpol's and MROS' annual reports published this week. The number of inquiries has increased to 3'662 notifications last year from 999 inquiries five years ago. In about...

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