Free Press Journal

Money laundering cases rise to record high in Switzerland



Geneva: Long considered a safe haven for suspected black money, Switzerland has reported a sharp rise in the ‘suspicious activity reports’ received by its Money Laundering Reporting Office to a record high level of 1,753. The quantum of the funds involved in these cases has also risen by 12 per cent to more than 3.3 billion Swiss francs.

According to the latest annual data released by the MROS (Money Laundering Reporting Office of Switzerland), the number of Suspected Activity Reports (SARs) received by it during 2014 rose by 24 per cent to 1,753, while over 85 per cent of reports came from the banks. This has exceeded the previous record of 1,625 SARs received in 2011. The reporting volume from the banking sector rose from 1,123 SARs in 2013 to 1,495 SARs in 2014 — an increase of 33 per cent. However, the number of SARs from other financial sectors declined, most notably from fiduciaries and asset managers.

Swiss banks have been at the centre of a global clampdown against black money, including by the Indian authorities. Switzerland has committed to help in India’s fight against the black money menace, including by way of providing information in cases where the Indian authorities provide evidence of suspected wrongdoings.

One SAR involved assets of more than CHF 200 million, while six other SARs involved assets of over CHF 75 million. Together these seven SARs made up approximately one third of total asset value. At CHF 2.85 million, the amount of assets involved in SARs forwarded to the prosecution authorities was comparable to 2013 (CHF 2.8 million). MROS further said that there was a two-fold increase in cases of suspected bribery. This was largely due to one large and complex case that triggered over 50 SARs. The case was forwarded to the prosecution authorities for further investigation.

As in previous years, fraud was again the most frequently reported predicate offence to money laundering, with the number of SARs relating to this offence increasing over the previous reporting year (448 SARs as opposed to 373 SARs in 2013). Moreover, the number of reports involving phishing or fraudulent misuse of a computer, remained high.

The number of SARs involving terrorist financing fell, from 33 in 2013 to 9 in 2014. All the 9 SARs in 2014 were related to separate cases. MROS said that it forwarded 72 per cent of all SARs to the prosecution authorities. MROS filters out SARs that are unsubstantial. The authority also said it strengthened the co-operation with its foreign counterparts and public prosecutors.