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New measures against money laundering in Switzerland

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Sweeping measures to combat money laundering

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With the proposed reforms, Switzerland is revising its economic crime laws for the second time in three years.

Switzerland no longer wants to be seen as the pre-eminent European country that acts as a “laundry” for money laundering. In an unprecedented attempt to shake off the country's bad reputation as a haven for illegal profits, its government has proposed sweeping measures to crack down on money laundering.

Finance Minister Karin Keller Suter has presented the proposed reforms, which aim to improve transparency while attempting to close legal loopholes. Demanding that there be no escape for the ultimate “beneficial owners” of the various companies and consortia, and to be forced to declare their identity and assets.

Currently, Switzerland is the only European country which does not have such a national property register. As the Financial Times points out, the country is criticized on a permanent basis that with its existing regime it offers a perfect escape for oligarchs and criminals from all over the world. They take advantage of the absence of a national property registry and by using Swiss institutions and know-how they manage to disguise the ownership of assets.

“A strong financial crime protection system is essential to the reputation and continued success of an internationally important, safe and forward-looking financial center,” said Ms. Keller Suter. “Money laundering damages the economy and jeopardizes confidence in the financial system.”

Switzerland, which has a population of just 8.7 million, is the world's No. 1 center for offshore wealth, with an estimated $2.4 trillion of foreign assets held by its banks.

The minister stressed that Switzerland had a good reputation internationally for meeting financial standards, but acknowledged that there were “gaps”.

Switzerland has come under particular pressure in recent months to strengthen its financial controls as a result of and Russian invasion of Ukraine. The proposed reforms are the second time in three years that Switzerland has revised its laws against economic crime.

However, it should be noted that the proposals are still a long way from becoming law. Switzerland's consensus-based political system requires a period of consultation with political parties, cantonal governments and citizen groups, including banking lobbies and influential lawyers. This will take place over the next three months, before formal legislation is brought before Parliament next year.

Source: www.kathimerini.com.cy

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